Aquino: 2016 South China Sea ruling not in vain
MANILA, Philippines — The landmark victory of the Philippines against China in the South China Sea in 2016 was not worthless even if the current administration has not brought it up yet, former President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday.
“Noong araw pare-pareho lang ang timbang ng ating opinyon. Pero merong body na inatasan na sinang-ayunan ng lahat ng signatory ng UNCLOS na mali ang nine-dash line at tama ang posisyon natin. Sayang? Hindi. Nandyan na yan eh. Nabago ang sitwasyon,” he said at a book launch at De La Salle University.
READ: Philippines’ legal victory in South China Sea recalled in new book
“So, pag magsasalita ngayon ang China na historically, indisputable sovereignty, etc..ah, excuse me. We have the UNCLOS, which you agreed the creation of, has ruled against you.”
China insists it owns almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of the other claimants in the strategic waterway, despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in 2016 that invalidated these claims.
Aquino said they decided to take China to the international court in 2013 because of failed talks with the Asian neighbor.
“Nakipag-usap muna tayo baka sakaling magkaintindihan, i-manage ang sitwasyon. Anong nangyari? Mula simula hanggang dulo, hindi sila tumigil sa kakasabi na kanila lahat ito. Dumating sa punto na paano tayo makikipag-usap sa bansang saradong-sarado ang isip,” he said.
Aquino said he was mostly satisfied with the court’s ruling, except for the part of the decision that declared Scarborough Shoal as a shared fishing zone.
“It starts off with the phrase exclusive economic zone. So exclusive, our right against everybody else’s right. How can we all have the same rights in an exclusive setting?” he said.
The disputed shoal, a small ring of reefs, is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China took control of the shoal in 2012 after a tense standoff with the Philippine Navy, which later prompted the Philippines to file a case against China in the arbitration court.
China has refused to acknowledge the ruling. President Rodrigo Duterte, who came into power weeks after the verdict came out in 2016, decided not to assert the victory to pursue warmer ties with China in exchange of economic investments.
He said several times he will bring up the ruling at one point before his six-year term ends in 2022. /cbb
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