Drilon: Aquino admin handled well PH’s maritime dispute with China
The Aquino administration handled well Philippines’ maritime dispute with China, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said as he disputed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s claim that the previous administration “mismanaged” the issue and caused trouble.
Drilon, an ally of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, cited the Philippine victory in the arbitral tribunal which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea.
He countered Lorenzana’s claim that when President Duterte took over in 2016, Philippine trade with China was almost nil, Chinese tourists were staying away, and Filipinos could not fish in Scarborough Shoal.
However, Drilon told reporters, “I don’t think so. It is the Aquino administration that was able to get our claim recognized internationally and we won the arbitration.”
“If there is anything, it was managed well,” he added.
The Aquino administration haled China to the UN-backed tribunal following a 2012 standoff in Scarborough Shoal between Philippine and Chinese ships.
The move was triggered by the Philippines’ efforts to apprehend Chinese fishermen who were engaged in illegal fishing and harvesting of endangered marine life in the shoal, which is being claimed by the two countries.
In July 2016, the second month of President Duterte’s administration, the arbitral tribunal ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines by saying that Beijing could not claim historic rights over much of South China Sea, a strategic waterway believed to be rich in resources.
The tribunal also declared that Scarborough Shoal was a common fishing ground.
President Duterte has put the ruling in the back burner in favor of seeking warmer ties with China.
He has been accused of being too soft on China and of letting it get away with its encroachment into the Philippines exclusive economic zone and militarization of its occupied areas.
Recently, members of the Chinese coast guard were accused of seizing the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.
Administration officials sought to downplay the issue by saying that what took place was “barter” since the fishermen got other items like noodles and water in return for their catch.
Meanwhile, Sen. Gregorio Honasan said he hopes that the country would get out of being stuck in a “perpetual cycle of medium-term planning” when it comes to protecting its foreign-related interests.
Honasan said this should be corrected such that gains achieved by one administration would be preserved.
“Otherwise, me might swing to the other end of the pendulum and we would be talking about the same issues 10 years from now,” he said, adding that foreign policy is a continuing effort. /vvp
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