Duterte to ‘ignore’ SCS ruling For 60-40 deal with China

Helen Flores, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte to �ignore� SCS ruling For 60-40 deal with China
A Philippine map referring to the waters west of the country as the West Philippine Sea is shown on display at a map stall at the Manila International Book Fair in Pasay City yesterday.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration will ignore the 2016 international arbitral court ruling favoring the Philippine position on the South China Sea to ensure “economic activity” in the country’s exclusive economic zone, including Chinese-led exploration from which Manila would be guaranteed 60 percent of revenues.

Reacting to Duterte’s pronouncement, former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario said ensuring economic activity in the country’s exclusive economic zone does not require setting aside the arbitral ruling “and running afoul of the Constitution.”

“The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is part of the arbitral ruling, which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity,” the President said at a press conference Tuesday night at Malacañang.

Duterte said when he raised the arbitral ruling during a meeting in Beijing last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to “budge.”

“Set aside your claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies,” Duterte recalled being told by Xi during their meeting.

“They want to explore and if there is something, they said, ‘we would be  gracious enough to give you 60 percent.’ They will just have 40 (percent). That is the promise of Xi Jinping,” Duterte said.

The Chief Executive, accused by critics of being too soft on China in the West Philippine Sea row, stressed however that the Philippines would not totally abandon the ruling.

He admitted though that the ruling could never be used to reclaim areas and land features already under Chinese control.

The 2016 ruling issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague affirmed Manila’s sovereign rights over its 200-nautical mile EEZ and invalidated China’s massive claim.

“You cannot abandon the (ruling). It’s there. But how to claim back that property because of the arbitral ruling. China said, ‘That is ours,’” he said. He reiterated that it would take a war for the Philippines to reclaim territories seized and fortified by China.

“The only way to retake is to declare war. Go there and sink all their ships,” the Chief Executive said.

He again ruled out going to war with China over the West Philippine Sea dispute, saying it would lead to a “massacre” of Filipino troops.

His foreign affairs chief offered a different perspective, however. In an interview with ANC, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. emphasized that the arbitral court ruling is “beyond the reach of compromise” and thus cannot be set aside.

“It cannot be set aside,” Locsin said, referring to the 2016 ruling by the United Nations-backed tribunal in the Netherlands. The court rejected China’s “nine-dash line” claim almost over the entire South China Sea.

“What the arbitral award did is that it put the award beyond the reach of compromise. In other words, I don’t care if the Filipino people want to set it aside. No, it is theirs,” he said. Locsin said the decision is final and binding in the international court.

“If you want to abandon it, you can abandon it but take the consequences,” he said.


to the President

Del Rosario, in a statement last night, pointed out: “In fact, as previously suggested by Senior Associate Antonio Carpio, an oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea with China would be constitutional and consistent with the Arbitral Ruling if China participates (with the suggested 60-40 sharing) through a Philippine service contract—which affirms Philippine sovereign rights.”

“In this way, the President will also not turn back on his promise to the Filipino people made during his October 16, 2016 departure speech, as he embarked on state visits to Brunei Darussalam and China, that he cannot be the ‘sole authorized agent’ to share with the Chinese, our EEZ which belongs exclusively to the Filipino people,” Del Rosario added.

He also reminded the President that 87 percent of Filipinos – based on SWS survey – agree that the government should assert the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.

“For the sake of our country, the government must listen to its people,” he said. The survey, he added, also found that 87 percent of Filipinos agree that Philippine officials should “arrest and prosecute Chinese fishermen causing the destruction of marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.”

“We are all familiar with China’s continuing unlawful activities. These include preventing our fishermen from pursuing their livelihood in Scarborough Shoal and in our exclusive economic zone, blocking the Philippine development of our natural resources, destroying elements of the marine environment, erecting military facilities, and ridiculously confronting our President with the threat of war,” he said.

“With due respect, we would like to emphasize that the preservation of our national patrimony, which includes our EEZ, is infinitely more valuable than coming up ‘with an economic activity’ in the EEZ,” he pointed out.

“The possibility of economic activity in our EEZ is always present; however, when we lose our EEZ, we lose it forever,” he stressed.

“Our EEZ does not belong to China, but belongs to us Filipinos, our children and to generations of Filipinos yet unborn. As enshrined under our Constitution and as a matter of national honor, we Filipinos have a solemn duty to protect and preserve our country’s rights.”

Last November, the Philippines and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in oil and gas development. The proposed joint development of resources in the West Philippine Sea was one of the topics discussed by Duterte and Xi during their bilateral meeting in Beijing last month. During the meeting, the two leaders agreed to form steering committees that would discuss ways to implement the MOU. Xi, however, has insisted that China would not recognize the landmark arbitral ruling.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana previously said Duterte wanted to hasten the proposed joint development in the West Philippine Sea to ensure that the Philippines would have enough power supply.

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