Blame China, not Aquino, for South China Sea problem
MANILA, Philippines – A staunch ally of former president Benigno Aquino III defended him from allegations that he was to blame for the Philippines' problem with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a party mate of Aquino in the Liberal Party, made the statement in response to former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had blamed Aquino for the Philippines' row with the Asian giant. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court)
“I would like to think that is misplaced and absolutely has no basis,” Drilon said in response to questions in a press conference on Wednesday, April 26.
For the senator, the previous administation just did its duty to assert the Philippines' rights when it filed a case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands in 2013. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court)
The Aquino administration initiated these proceedings after a standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea in April 2012. The Philippines won the case. (READ: Aquino legacy: Defying China)
“We should put the blame on China rather than...on former President Aquino for asserting our rights as a sovereign country, [for] asserting our rights under the UNCLOS. There is absolutely no basis for laying the blame on former president Aquino,” says Drilon, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Drilon then urged the implementation of a binding ASEAN Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, saying it should be anchored on the PCA's ruling in favor of the Philippines.
Arroyo and her counsel, Estelito Mendoza, had said in a recent news conference that Aquino provoked China to build artificial islands in the disputed area.
She said Duterte knew what he was doing in managing the Philippines' dispute with China. Like Arroyo, Duterte has embarked on friendlier ties with China by taking a soft approach to the dispute in exchange for better trade and economic cooperation.
To further prove their point, Arroyo and Mendoza said there was no problem between the Philippines and China prior to the Aquino administration.
“Under the Arroyo administration, there was relatively peace and quiet with China. And not just that, there was also cooperation. There was cooperation, not necessarily war, and perhaps it was the best solution,” Mendoza earlier told reporters.
Arroyo said during her time, “China didn’t file a protest and they even recognized our 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
During her administration, Arroyo allowed China and another claimant country in the South China Sea, Vietnam, to enter into a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with the Philippines. (READ: Why China prefers Arroyo over Aquino)
Under the JMSU, the 3 countries agreed to conduct joint exploration of the disputed South China Sea. Critics deemed the JMSU, which lapsed in 2008, as unconstitutional.
Up to 80% of the JMSU site was within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Legal experts told Newsbreak in 2008 that the government “effectively derogated the Philippines’ sovereignty over the marine resources around the province of Palawan.”
During her 9-year presidency, Arroyo visited China 15 times. Duterte is expected to be a frequent visitor to China too, as he is set to go on his second trip to China in just 7 months, in May. – Rappler.com