Del Rosario warns Duterte over ‘ignoring’ arbitral ruling in joint exploration with China

Sofia Tomacruz
Del Rosario warns Duterte over ‘ignoring’ arbitral ruling in joint exploration with China
Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario says the Duterte government has a choice not to set aside the historic ruling as a service contract arrangement would remain faithful to both the Constitution and the ruling

MANILA, Philippines – Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario cautioned President Rodrigo Duterte against “ignoring” the 2016 Hague ruling in order to push through with joint oil and gas development with China, emphasizing there is a way to conduct the venture without compromising the hard-won victory.

“To come up with an economic activity in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) need not involve setting aside the arbitral ruling and running afoul of the Constitution,” Del Rosario said in a statement on Wednesday, September 11.

Del Rosario, who was the Philippines’ foreign secretary when the country decided to file a case against China, said preserving the Philippines’ patrimony which includes the EEZ is “infinitely more valuable” than conducting economic activity in the maritime area. 

“The possibility of economic activity in our EEZ is always present; however, when we lose our EEZ, we lose it forever,” he added. 

Del Rosario said that as long as joint development with Beijing is carried out through a Philippine service contract – which affirms the Philippines’ sovereign rights – then such activity would be “constitutional and consistent” with the 2016 arbitral ruling that affirmed the Philippines rights in the West Philippine Sea. 

“If a service contract arrangement is followed, where a Chinese company participates either as an equity holder or a subcontractor, the President would remain faithful to the Constitution and the arbitral ruling,” he added.

What Duterte said: Duterte had earlier said Manila and Beijing are “ignoring” the 2016 arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea in order to push through with joint oil and gas exploration there.

Kasi ‘yang (Because that) – the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is part of the arbitral ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity,” Duterte said on Tuesday, September 10, in an interview with reporters.

Duterte had also claimed China wants to “set aside [the Philippine] claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies.”

The President’s choice: Del Rosario, however, emphasized Duterte does have a choice whether or not to “set aside” the Hague ruling to move forward with joint development in the maritime area, as he urged the scheme under Philippine service contracts to be followed.

Del Rosario likewise reminded Duterte of the duty to protect the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.

“Our EEZ does not belong to China, but belongs to us Filipinos, our children and to generations of Filipinos yet unborn. As enshrined under our Constitution and as a matter of national honor, we Filipinos have a solemn duty to protect and preserve our country’s rights,” Del Rosario said.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr earlier denied “setting aside” or ignoring the 2016 arbitral ruling was needed in order for joint development between the two countries to move forward.

The top diplomat gave assurances joint oil and gas explorations with China would not compromise the Hague ruling as the venture would be carried out without prejudice to the legal position of both the Philippines and China. (READ: Locsin says arbitral ruling ‘unnecessary’ in joint exploration with China) – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.