QUEZON City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday disclosed that former President Fidel Ramos and Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will be among his top advisers on the issue on the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Belmonte, chairman of the House special committee on West Philippine Sea, said Ramos and Carpio are both experts on the heavily contested waterway in light of the recent ruling of the arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea favoring the Philippines.
“The two [ex-President Ramos and Carpio] are experts and knowledgeable of the topic. Ex-President Ramos even led a series of annual conferences on various issues held in a city in China and he has a good relationship with China,” Belmonte, vice chairman of the minority Liberal Party, said in an interview.
Ramos was tapped as President Rodrigo Duterte’s special envoy to China to conduct talks regarding the recent international arbitral tribunal ruling.
In the case of Carpio, Belmonte said the SC justice may serve as his adviser in his private capacity being an expert on the dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
“If I talk to him [Carpio] or tap him, it will be on a private basis and not as a Supreme Court justice because he is a very knowledgeable person. In fact, he was in The Hague during the hearings there,” Belmonte said, referring to the city on the North Sea coast of the western Netherlands.
Before the UN ruling, Carpio said the UN arbitral court needs to categorically void China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea to put an end to Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea.
Belmonte also named former Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo, ex-Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Angkla party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo as his potential advisers being skillful, proficient and articulate lawmakers on the West Philippine Sea issue.
He also said that some retired country’s envoys to China will also help him lend their expertise on the matter to champion Filipinos’interest on the West Philippine Sea.
The UN ruling criticized China’s actions as against international law and invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the strategic waterway.
House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas earlier said the House special committee on the West Philippine Sea could help former President Ramos in his efforts to start informal negotiations with China over the long-standing maritime dispute.
Belmonte, during his stint as Speaker in the 16th Congreass, joined the Philippine delegation to the Hague in the Netherlands during the proceedings of the country’s case against China.
Hague is home to the UN’s International Court of Justice, headquartered in the Peace Palace, and the International Criminal Court.