Carpio, Del Rosario respond to latest lashing from Duterte
“If you’re bright, why did we lose the West Philippine Sea?” President Duterte said on Wednesday night, addressing the two most vocal critics of the administration regarding its stance on China’s incursions into the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario fired back, pointing out that the previous administration, under then President Benigno Aquino III, filed and won a case against China at the international arbitral tribunal in 2016, but that Duterte “very quickly shelved’’ the ruling when he became President in exchange for Chinese investments.
“Filipinos deserve, and should demand, a President who loves Filipinos first and foremost and who will uncompromisingly defend Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said in a statement on Thursday.
“With due respect, as the incumbent Commander in Chief of our military, we urge the President to do his utmost to protect the West Philippine Sea and to be most wary of China’s duplicity,’’ Del Rosario added in a separate statement.
Alluding to Duterte’s reported verbal agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow China to fish in the country’s EEZ, Carpio said: “We even import galunggong now from China, the same galunggong that Chinese fishermen take in the West Philippine Sea.’’
Worse, Carpio said, the President remained “absolutely silent” when China in July 2019 seized Sandy Cay, which is located two nautical miles from Pag-asa, the largest island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys.
Three times larger than QC
“China’s seizure of Sandy Cay has resulted in the loss of one-third of our territorial sea in Pag-asa, a loss of maritime area three times larger than the land area of Quezon City. Still the President has declared ‘I simply love President Xi Jinping,’” said the retired magistrate, who also writes a column in the Inquirer.
Duterte lashed back at Carpio and Del Rosario in a televised address on Wednesday night. Earlier that day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described China as “intruders’’ and repeated calls on Beijing to pull out hundreds of Chinese maritime militia vessels staying from the West Philippine Sea since last month.
“That was during your time. It was your time when you were still in position,’’ Duterte said. “If you’re bright, why did we lose it? Now it’s China who’s holding it. And it’s me you’re pressuring to find a solution.”
But Del Rosario recalled that there was an agreement, brokered by the United States, in 2012 for China and the Philippines to withdraw their ships from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to resolve the standoff in the area.
“[W]e withdrew our one ship while China deceitfully breached our agreement by not withdrawing their 30 or more ships,’’ Del Rosario said.
In order to seek a peaceful, durable solution, he said, the Aquino administration later filed a case nullifying China’s maritime claims before the arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2013, which the Philippines won in July 2016. Del Rosario led the filing of the complaint.
Less than 5 percent
Carpio said that while he was not part of the executive branch at that time, he recommended the filing of the case before the tribunal.
“After our efforts in securing this victory, we were expecting the then new (Duterte) administration to enforce the arbitral award for the benefit of the Filipino people,’’ Del Rosario said. “Instead, President Duterte did not waste time in advancing his declared embrace of (Chinese leader) Xi Jinping when he very quickly shelved the arbitral award in exchange for a promised $24 billion in Chinese investments and assistance which, until now, has not materialized.’’
“Today, less than 5 percent of those loans and investments have materialized even as President Duterte is already leaving office next year,” Carpio said.
Del Rosario also noted that Duterte announced in 2019 that he made a verbal agreement with Xi allowing the Chinese to fish in the West Philippine Sea “in patent violation of our Constitution.’’
He also said Duterte also “fully accepted this Chinese narrative of war’’ should the Philippines force the issue because it was intended to sow fear and deter the Filipinos from asserting their internationally recognized rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Earlier this week, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque denied that there was a verbal fishing agreement. —Tina G. Santos
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