Arroyo blames Aquino for China island-building
The camp of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday accused the Aquino administration of “provoking” China into building artificial islands in the South China Sea by submitting the territorial dispute between the two countries to international arbitration.
Speaking at a news conference with Arroyo and her former executive secretary, Eduardo Ermita, lawyer Estelito Mendoza said China had categorically stated that the Philippine case in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague had provoked it into building artificial islands, including on a shoal in the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratly archipelago.
Three times, Arroyo, in a naughty tone, emphasized that the artificial islands were built by China “during the previous administration.”
“In effect we were fighting in The Hague. Maybe we are winning in The Hague. But China made it a point that they were winning in the waters of the South China Sea. That would now be the most difficult problem of President Duterte, the islands built during the Aquino administration,” Mendoza said.
Arroyo—who now holds the seat of the second district of Pampanga in the House of Representatives—Mendoza and Ermita tackled the South China Sea dispute at the launch of the veteran lawyer’s “primer” on the Philippines’ maritime area, which tackles mainly Republic Act No. 9522, passed by Congress during the Arroyo administration, defining the country’s archipelagic baselines.
Arroyo said China did not protest the Philippines’ baselines, which in effect defined the country’s sovereignty over these areas, except Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) and the Kalayaan group.
Mendoza said there was “relative quiet and peace” in the South China Sea during the Arroyo administration.
“Now what is catching attention not only of the countries bordering the South China Sea is practically [the] continuing tension in the South China Sea, the posturing of the naval might of the US, China and other countries that did not exist during the Arroyo administration,” he said.
Arroyo said she was briefed by government agencies like the National Security Council (NSC) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority on the South China Sea
She said that at the NSC meeting in Malacañang last year, attended by all former Presidents, she emphasized that “as far as China is concerned, our strategic direction should be to emphasize our economic relations and transcend to the extent that we can matters and issues between us.”
In 2013, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III challenged China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea at The Hague tribunal.
The tribunal handed down a decision on July 12 last year, ruling that China’s claim had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters within Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
President Duterte, a self-styled socialist who came to
office last year, upended Philippine foreign policy by refusing to assert the country’s victory and instead making friendly overtures to China and Russia while steering the Philippines away from the influence of its longtime ally the United States.
Arroyo and Ermita also defended the defunct—and controversial—Joint Maritime Seismic Understanding, saying it was a research effort in
the South China Sea by the Philippines, China and Vietnam that did not affect the countries’ claims in the disputed waterway.
Arroyo also defended Mr. Duterte’s actions and statements in dealing with the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Arroyo said.
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