The Philippines' arbitral victory in 2016 against China's massive claims in the West Philippine Sea before the United Nations is just paper fit to be thrown in the trash, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday night.
"Sa totoong buhay, 'yang papel, wala 'yan... Sa usapang bugoy, sabihin ko sa'yo, ibigay mo sa akin, sabihin ko sa'yo p***ng ina papel lang 'yan. Itatapon ko 'yan sa waste basket (In real life, that paper, that's nothing. I'll throw it in the waste basket," Duterte said in his second televised briefing this week.
The President also said he would resign “the next day” if his critics could answer who authorized the retreat from Scarborough Shoal after a standoff with China in 2012 and explain what they did to enforce the arbitral win.
He was referring to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
In 2013, the Philippines challenged China’s legal basis for its expansive claim before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, and won the case in a landmark award in 2016 after the tribunal invalidated Beijing’s assertions.
Meanwhile, the Philippines does not recognize China's annual fishing ban that covers the West Philippine Sea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Wednesday.
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Esperon, chairman of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said the fishing moratorium imposed by China since 1999 does not cover Filipino fishing boats.
“(Our fishing boats are not covered under this ban, only theirs. Why would they declare a fishing ban in our West Philippine Sea, our EEZ?,” he said in Filipino, referring to the country’s exclusive economic zone.
"This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen and the NTF-WPS opposes China’s imposition of the same over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines. The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS," Esperon said in a statement Wednesday.
The Philippines, he said, is fully resolved in defending its territory and possessions for the benefit of the Filipino people and will not be deterred from defending its national interest, patrimony, and dignity as a people with all available resources.
"Thus, the conduct of law enforcement patrols and maritime exercises in the WPS and Municipality of Kalayaan by the PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) and the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) will continue as directed by the President. The government is firm in its resolve to protect what is ours for the benefit of the Filipinos," Esperon said.
His statement followed reports of shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuvers, and radio challenges conducted by the Chinese coast guard against Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels BRP Gabriela Silang and BRP Sindangan while conducting legitimate law enforcement patrols and maritime exercises in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc on April 24 and 25.
On April 27, the PCG vessel BRP Cabra accompanied by BFAR vessels MCS 3002 and 3004 proceeded to Sabina Shoal, located 130 nautical miles west of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and east of Ayungin Shoal, in performance of WPS law enforcement functions and maritime exercises.
Upon their arrival, the Philippine ships sighted seven Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels nested or in stationary linear formation off Sabina Shoal.
"The crew of BRP Cabra issued a series of challenges to the offending vessels but elicited no response from the CMMs. After around 20 minutes, however, the CMMs vessels dispersed and left the shoal after being challenged by BRP Cabra," he said.
Also, on April 29, the BRP Cabra spotted five CMMs that immediately left upon arrival of the Philippine ships.
The Palace lauded the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG for driving away several Chinese sea vessels that encroached inside the country’s EEZ in Palawan province.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque used the incident to attack the President’s critics, saying it was only during the Duterte administration that intruders were driven away.
Esperon said, however, that nine Chinese fishing vessels remain the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
Esperon said the Philippines must improve its nine detachments in the Kalayaan Island Group.
“That's what we should do now. We must improve our nine detachments, fortify them, improve the living conditions of our troops and develop our defense capability," he said in Filipino, adding that the process would take years.
Also on Wednesday, Senator Richard Gordon said China should stop pushing the Philippines around by intruding on its territory.
Speaking during the virtual conference sponsored by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Gordon admitted that while he doesn't like the Chinese government, he loves Chinese people since they have a different brand of friendship.
Meanwhile, Roque again attacked former high court magistrate Carpio, who likened President Duterte’s failure to keep his campaign promises to assert Philippine sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal to “grand estafa” or grand larceny.
“As a former justice, he knows the elements of estafa. This is not estafa,” Roque said, noting that the President had fooled nobody when he said he would jet ski to the Spratly Islands or Scarborough Shoal and plant the Philippine flag to assert the country’s sovereignty rights there.
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