Government must listen to its people: Primacy in our waters
Albert Del Rosario (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2019 - 12:00am

(Opening remarks at Stratbase ADR Institute Forum, 12 July 2019.)

Exactly three years ago, on the 12th of July 2016, the Tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS declared that China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas encompassed by its “nine-dash line” defy and violate international law.

We succeeded in invalidating China’s “nine-dash line” and in clarifying our entitlements including our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

This was a huge victory for our country and the international community, as it signaled the triumph of the rule of law in one of the most important bodies of water on Earth, i.e., the South China Sea.

However, the problem we face today is that the Award we won has been shelved, resulting in more unlawful acts of intimidation and bullying in the South China Sea. As recent as Monday this week, the President said that his verbal agreement allowing the Chinese to fish in our EEZ is “constitutional” despite the clear constitutional mandate that says the “use and enjoyment” of our EEZ is “reserved…exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

I. An impeachable offense

What then should we as Filipinos do?

On this note, I would like to share with you interesting statements lifted from the transcript of President Duterte’s Oct. 16, 2016 departure speech, as he embarked on his State visits to Brunei Darussalam and China

President Duterte said:

“[M]any are wondering how I would deal with China on the matter of the China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

We will stick towards our claim. We do not bargain anything though. We continue to insist that it’s ours and that the Tribunal, the international decision will be taken up and, but there will be no hard impositions.

We will talk and we will, maybe paraphrase everything in the judgment and set the limits of our territories, the special economic zones. It will be – no bargaining there. It is ours and many of you are just – wanting to ask the question.

That is it. No bargaining of our territories whether within the turf or to the 200, it will remain a  special concern and I will be very careful not to bargain anything for after all I cannot  give what is not mine and which I am not empowered to do by any sketch of  imagination.

….”

Then Mr. Ian Cruz from GMA 7 asked:

“Sir, according to Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, if  you concede the sovereign claims over Scarborough Shoal, you could be impeached. What’s your reaction, sir?”

President Duterte replied:

“He is correct. I would be impeached; it’s an impeachable offense. I do not fight with that statement. It’s all correct, it’s all legal and so I agree with him.

I said we cannot barter which is not ours, it belongs to the Filipino people. I cannot be the sole authorized agent for that is not allowed under the Constitution.  Tama siya.”

We believe that this position of the President is what the people want not only in Scarborough Shoal, but also in our EEZ, which includes the West Philippine Sea. It is consistent with the Constitution and puts the interests of the Filipino people first. To paraphrase the President, he cannot be the “sole authorized agent” to share with the Chinese, our EEZ that belongs exclusively to the Filipino people.

In fact, the President and the military are constitutionally mandated to secure the integrity of our national territory which includes our EEZ and the West Philippine Sea. (To be continued)

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