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Interloper has no mandate

Elmer N. Manuel @tribunephl_lmer

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The vicious critics of President Rodrigo Duterte on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) conflict should seek the people’s vote to become the president first and implement their own foreign policy to counter that of President Rodrigo Duterte, Solicitor General Jose Calida said.

“Under our laws and Constitution, the chief architect of our foreign policy is President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and not any interloper who probably wants to be president,” Calida said in a television interview.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio presented six options to supposedly assert, without resorting to war, the claims over the WPS in response to Mr. Duterte’s statement that he does not want to go to a war against China that the Philippines will not win.

“He should be president (first) before he contests what the chief architect of foreign policy is doing,” he added.

Calida said the Duterte administration has been doing all it can to safeguard its interest in the contested maritime area.

In an exclusive pre-SoNA (State of the Nation Address) interview with the Daily Tribune, President Duterte said he had indicated to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping the need to settle the territorial dispute.

“We were close at a solution but it was interrupted by the collision (between Filipino and Chinese vessels in the Recto Bank),” he said.

Xi offered a 60-40 sharing scheme in our favor, so I was happy about it. Instead of fighting endlessly about it, we are approaching a settlement,” Mr. Duterte added.

“Carpio wanted us to go there, they have been pushing me to confront China and stop them. But how do I do it? They are in possession of the China Sea, they have military garrisons and some missile sites there,” the President said.

“Now, when did this all start? About eight years ago, was it known to everybody? Yes… including America… it came out in all the newspapers, there were satellite photographs provided by countries such as France, Britain, that showed there was something brewing,” he added.

“So, this Carpio, you know, (should be asked) when did we lose (the contested areas to) China? We lost them when there was an impasse (during the term of former President Benigno Aquino), we were there physically,” he said.

“So the fool (Aquino) agreed to withdraw but the problem was that China did not honor it, our Navy pulled out and on that day we lost the Spratlys, then Carpio et al. is now trying to pressure me when it was not me who caused the problem,” he said.

“They filed a petition with the arbitral tribunal but what’s the use of the arbitral ruling when they are already there?” the Chief Executive asked.

Appeasement, it’s not

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also rejected observations the Philippines is adopting an appeasement policy towards China at the cost of its territorial integrity in the WPS
“No, the appeasement word is coming from you and the others, it’s not appeasement,” he told reporters during the reception of the French National Day in Makati City on Sunday.

The remark came days after the third anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim over the WPS.

Three years since the decision was released, Lorenzana emphasized that the country, under the Duterte administration, continued to assert its rights in the area, but from the beginning, China was firm in rejecting the ruling.

“We are not afraid of them, it’s just that China is already there. We’ve been asserting our rights there in the West Philippine Sea and they’re listening to us but as they said they do not honor the arbitral ruling so what will you do?” he said.

2-of-11 provisions

According to a comprehensive report by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a United States-based think tank, China is in compliance with just two of 11 parts of the ruling.

One aspect of the decision it has complied with was allowing Filipino fishermen to the Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing grounds off Zambales which China blocked during a standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012.

The other was Beijing’s discontinuation of destroying the marine environment in the WPS with its island-building campaign.

“It could be argued that some of China’s ongoing activities, for instance, the installation of monitoring stations on reefs in the Paracels, are still illegally damaging marine habitat without proper environmental impact assessments. But having run out of space for new landfill, China is now technically in compliance with the bulk of this section of the ruling,” the AMTI report read.

“That could change, however, should China launch new dredging or landfill work at Scarborough Shoal or elsewhere,” it added.

Of the 11 rulings, China maintains its “historic rights” claim in the region through its nine-dash line beyond the territorial seas, exclusive economic zones (EEZ), and continental shelves permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It also continues to occupy the Mischief Reef, the Second Thomas Shoal and the waters around it which are part of the EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines.

China rejection firm

In a press conference over the weekend, China reiterated that it would not accept nor recognize the PCA decision, adding that the arbitral tribunal “willfully expanded its power to exercise jurisdiction and make an award, which is null and void.”