'Duterte statements on China-held features could disadvantage Philippines'
In this November 14 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte attends the ASEAN-Japan Special Summit in Singapore.
ASEAN 2018 Organizing Committee
'Duterte statements on China-held features could disadvantage Philippines'
(Philstar.com) - November 15, 2018 - 4:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's recent pronouncements on China's actions in the disputed South China Sea might once again place the Philippines at a disadvantage, a law expert said Thursday.

In an ambush interview with reporters in Singapore, the president acknowledged Beijing's occupation of Manila-claimed features in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

In recent months, China has installed new missile systems and jamming equipment on Fiery Corss, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

"I said China is already in possession. It's now in their hands so why do you have to create frictions... military activity that will prompt a response to China," Duterte told reporters Thursday.

The president made this comment upon expressing his opposition to military exercises in the South China Sea and the United States' constant naval presence in the area.

Locsin: Not an inch or iota of sovereignty

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., on the other hand, clarified that the Philippine government is not giving up any inch of its territory.

"Absolutely not. I have repeatedly said not an inch nor an iota of sovereignty," Locsin said in a press conference at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

Asked about Duterte's remarks on China's occupation of West Philippine Sea features, Locsin said, "I was not present at that ambush [interview]. I don't really know what happened there."

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, warned that the president's latest remarks might be used against the Philippines.

"He is acknowledging China's possession, so to that extent he is recognizing China's current occupation of disputed features," Batongbacal told Philstar.com.

"And he opposes anything that will create friction with China on the issue. Yes, it is a unilateral declaration that can be used against [the Philippines]," Batongbacal added.

RELATED: Palace: Never too late to assert arbitral award in South China Sea

Doctrine of unilateral declaration

If China accepts this pronouncement from Duterte, this would waive the Philippines' rights stemming from the July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on the South China Sea arbitration.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that such statements from Duterte, as representative of the state, could bind the country in declarations in a dispute.

This doctrine is known as the doctrine of unilateral declaration, according to Carpio.

"If the president says 'I am setting aside the ruling', the doctrine is that that binds the country if it is accepted by China. That declaration is a declaration against the interest of the state and it will bind that state because the president is the representative under international law," Carpio said in July.

Under the United Nations' guiding principles applicable to unilateral declarations of states, "a unilateral declaration that has created legal obligations for the State making the declaration cannot be revoked arbitrarily."

A unilateral declaration binds the State internationally only if it is made by an authority vested with the power to do so. By virtue of their functions, heads of State, heads of Government and ministers for foreign affairs are competent to formulate such declarations. Other persons representing the State in specified areas may be authorized to bind it, through their declarations, in areas falling within their competence.

Beijing continues to reject the arbitral ruling that invalidated its expansive claims in the South China Sea. The United Nations-backed tribunal also concluded that China violated its commitment under the Convention on the Law of the Sea but Beijing insists on having indisputable sovereignty over the area. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

ASEAN RODRIGO DUTERTE SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 27, 2020 - 9:37am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

August 27, 2020 - 9:37am

China said a US spy plane entered a no-fly zone used by the Chinese military for live-fire drills, branding it an act of provocation, state media said Tuesday.

The U-2 reconnaissance jet's flight over an area in northern China violated safety rules between the two nations, Xinhua reported, citing Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian.

"The US action could easily have resulted in misjudgments and even accidents," said the report, adding "that the move was an obvious provocation." — AFP

July 14, 2020 - 7:34am

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States would treat Beijing's pursuit of resources in the dispute-rife South China Sea as illegal, ramping up pressure on another front.

"We are making clear: Beijing's claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them," Pompeo says in a statement.

The United States has long rejected Beijing's sweeping claims in the South ChinaSea, aligning itself with Vietnam, the Philippines and other US partners in the region. — AFP

July 3, 2020 - 7:28am

The Pentagon says it is "concerned" about Chinese military exercises around a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, noting the maneuvers will "further destabilize" the region.

"The Department of Defense is concerned about the People's Republic of China (PRC) decision to conduct military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on July 1-5," the Pentagon says in a statement.

The activities "further destabilize the situation" in the area claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, it says. — AFP

April 30, 2020 - 4:15pm

The Philippines says it strongly protests "the establishment of the so-called districts of 'Nansha' and 'Xisha' under the supposed administrative jurisdiction of its self-declared 'Sansha City'" which would cover parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs says it has protested since 2012 the "unlawful establishment of Sansha City" that includes Philippine territory and maritime zones in the WPS, including the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc.

The Philippines also protests the dseignation of Kagitingan Reef in the Kalayaan Island Group "as adinistrative center for the so-called 'Nansha district'," saying the reef is part of the KIG and an integral part of Philippine territory.

April 27, 2020 - 1:41pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution to urge the executive branch to "exert legal and diplomatic pressure" on China over its activities in the West Philippine and to have the regional giant pay for enviromental damage in the area.

"China's sense of entitlement to our seas has caused severe and irreparable harm to our ecosystems," Hontiveros says in a statement on the filing of Philippine Senate Resolution No. 369.

Even if the Senate, the majority of which supports the Duterte administration and its foreign policy with China, adopts the resolution, it is non-binding on the executive branch.

"Hindi tayo kolonya, kaya panahon nang singilin ng gobyerno ang Tsina (We are not a colony so it's about time that we have China pay)," she also says.

In her resolution, Hontiveros says "unlawful Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea are estimated to have caused at last P33 billion in damage annually to marine ecosystems within the Philippines' continental shelf and exclusive economic zone" since 2013, the year that the Philippines filed its arbitration case.

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