MANILA – The Philippines continues to assert its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea against China amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Monday.
In his commentary show “Counterpoint” aired on state-run PTV-4, Panelo hit critics anew for saying that the Duterte administration is not doing enough to assert the tribunal ruling which found no basis for China to claim the entire South China Sea.
Panelo rejected these claims, saying Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. sees to it that diplomatic protests are immediately filed against China in instances they violate international maritime law.
“Hindi totoo yung sinasabi niyo na tayo ay walking parang dahan-dahan pag involved ang China. Nakikita niyo naman, kita niyo si Secretary Teddyboy Locsin, pag bumanat ka diyan, gumalaw ka diyan sa South China Sea, banat kaagad, may protesta kaagad (It’s not true what you’re saying that we’re taking slow steps when China is involved. You can see Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, if they do something, take action in the South China Sea, he would immediately file a protest),” he said.
Panelo said he could not understand what else critics wanted the Duterte administration to do.
“Pinagpipilitan nila na assert sovereignty. Ano pa bang gusto niyong assertion? Pag nagkrelamo ka doon sa galaw laban sa ating claim, e you’re already asserting (They keep insisting us to assert sovereignty. What kind of assertion do you want? If you file a protest against what they did against our claim, you’re already asserting),” he said.
According to Panelo, while other countries with claims on the disputed waters have been more aggressive in asserting their claim, they have yet to convince China to respect the arbitral ruling as well.
“Nakuha ba nila yung gusto nila? Hindi rin. Paulit-ulit lang. E di mas maganda yung ginagawa ni Presidente (Did they get what they want? They didn’t. It’s a cycle. Then what the President is doing is better). We are asserting our claim over the place at the same time nakikipag-usap tayo diplomatically (we are dealing with them diplomatically)” he said.
Panelo defended Duterte’s remark that asserting sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea would entail going to war with China, saying that China is “capable of guarding their claimed territory”.
“Yun ang ibig sabihin ni Presidente, na hindi rin sila papayag kung papasukan sila at papakialaman mo yung kanilang claim din. Lalabanan ka rin nila. Yun ang iniiwasan nga ni Presidente (That’s what the President is trying to say, China will not allow the Philippines to interfere on their own claims. They will go into war. That’s what the President is trying to avoid),” he said.
He also echoed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, saying it was easy to criticize Duterte since they’re not the ones in charge.
“Kayong mga armchair general, tingin niyo napakadali. O sige, maupo kayo bilang Presidente (You armchair generals, you think it’s easy. You should try being President),” he said.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s nine-dash line, a geographical marker Beijing invoked to assert its extensive claims in the strategic waters.
The tribunal decided in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case filed against China in 2013 but Beijing rejected it as null and void.
Duterte, last year, made true his promise to invoke the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines against China after temporarily shelving it to make way for friendlier relations but Chinese President Xi Jinping stood pat on his decision not to recognize the ruling. (PNA)