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: July 31, 2019 - 8:22am

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.

July 31, 2019 - 8:22am

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana should do more than acknowledge China's harassment and bullying of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea, activist fsherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) says.

"Finally, a high-ranking official from the Duterte administration has recognized that there is an actual harassment of Filipino fishers in our own territorial waters. But we dare Mr. Lorenzana to walk the talk, if he is aware and is already fed up by the Chinese bullying and the subservience of his commander-in-chief Rodrigo Duterte to the foreign aggressor, then he must decisively act to stand with the Filipino fisherfolk and the people in upholding our sovereign and territorial rights," the group says in a statement.

Lorenzana on Tuesday said in response to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua speech at the anniversary of China's People's Liberation Army that China is a peace-loving nation that he considers China's takeover of Scarborough Shoal, also called Panatag and Bajo de Masinloc, as bullying.

July 11, 2019 - 9:18am

An overwhelming majority of Filipinos believe it is important to that the Philippines regain control of islands in the West Philippine Sea that are occupied by China, the latest Social Weather Stations survey suggests.

SWS says 93% of respondents in its Second Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey said it is important "that the control of the islands that China currently occupies in the West Philippine Sea be given back to the Philippines," with 74% answering it is "very important" and 19% saying it is "somewhat important".

In contrast, 1% each said it is "somewhat not important" and "not at all important". Another 4% were undecided, SWS says.
 
"The latest figure of 93% saying it is very important/somewhat important that the Philippines regain control of the China-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea is 4 points above the 89% (72% very important, 17% somewhat important) in December 2018. It was 87% (72% very important, 15% somewhat important) in September 2018, and also 87% (69% very important, 18% somewhat important) in June 2018," SWS also says.

In the same survey, 89% said it is "not right for the government to leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence in the claimed territories," SWS says. It adds the proportion has increased steadily in four surveys conducted since June 2018.

July 5, 2019 - 12:37pm

While the Philippines is still verifying the incident, fellow maritime claimant Vietnam joins the United States in raising concern over China's missile test in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the "East Sea."

"Vietnam suggests that all activities in the East Sea (South China Sea) should respect sovereignty and legitimate and legal interests of countries and observe international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, contributing to regional peace, security, stability and cooperation," Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang says in a statement.

June 19, 2019 - 3:38pm

Filipinos must continue to defend the West Philippine Sea as a matter of duty, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio tells reporters after the oath-taking of Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan party-list).

"My generation laid the foundation by winning the arbitral ruling that the West Philippine Sea belongs to Philippines — and the next generation, including your generation, must build on this foundation so that our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea will belong truly to the Filipinos," he says.

Carpio, who has been holding talks and symposia on the West Philippine Sea, says says Filipinos should have exclusive rights to the resources in the WPS, "including Reed Bank because that’s part of our EEZ."

Manila calls Reed Bank the Recto Bank.

June 13, 2019 - 6:15pm

The Communist Party of the Philippines sees sinister motives behind a US plan to deploy the US Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in the South China Sea to help smaller nations protect their exclusive economic zones.

The CPP, which believesUS imperialism is one of the factors that has kept the Philippines poor, says the protection plan is direct military intervention by America. The US Coast Guard is the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the US Armed Forces.

RELATED: US Coast Guard to help countries struggling with EEZ protection

The communist party says the US is "capitalizing on the widespread outrage of the Filipino people over the June 9 incident near the Recto Bank where a fishing boat with Filipino crewmen sank after colliding with a Chinese fishing vessel." It says the US wants justification to send its warships and other vessels into Philippine waters.

 The US is a treaty ally of the Philippines, its former colony. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao in Baguio City

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