West Philippine Sea

Del Rosario to Duterte: China, not Filipinos, to blame for Scarborough incident

Sofia Tomacruz

File photo of former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario

Rappler file photo

'Due to China’s duplicity, China remains the illegal occupant of Scarborough Shoal – a continuing and open violation (of Philippine sovereignty),' says former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario

Former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario hit President Rodrigo Duterte for continuing to blame fellow Filipinos over the 2012 Scarborough incident, underscoring China’s role in breaching an agreement with the country to withdraw ships from the area after days of tense standoff. 

Due to China’s duplicity, China remains the illegal occupant of Scarborough Shoal – a continuing and open violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. On the 2012 Scarborough incident, China is to blame, not our fellow countrymen,” Del Rosario said in a statement on Friday, May 14. 

Earlier in the day, a televised address showed Duterte once again raising the 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident in lashing out at Del Rosario and retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, two vocal critics of Duterte’s China policy. Along with Duterte, the President’s officials have often used the Scarborough incident to deflect criticism on its handling of the West Philippine Sea issue with China. 

Del Rosario disputed several claims Duterte had made on the incident, including the former foreign secretary supposedly ordering the withdrawal of Philippine ships, which Duterte sought to frame as opening the “floodgates for China to enter and to renege on its commitment to everybody.” 

As foreign secretary at the time, Del Rosario said he had no authority to order the withdrawal of Philippine ships, being outside the military’s chain of command. “This is a basic principle that any good soldier or naval officer knows,” he said. 

Moreover, Del Rosario underscored: “More importantly, no Filipino is to blame for having the word of honor in following the Agreement for mutual withdrawal.”

He continued: “It was China which illegally seized Scarborough Shoal from our country. As mentioned, in 2012, we withdrew our one or two ships from Scarborough Shoal while China deceitfully breached the US-brokered Agreement by not withdrawing their more than 30 ships.”

The standoff at Scarborough in 2012 is what prompted the Aquino administration to file its historic case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. The Philippines later won the landmark case in 2016, only for Duterte to downplay the victory in exchange for economic benefits from China. 

Setting himself apart from Del Rosario, Duterte reiterated he would not withdraw ships if a situation similar to the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff were to happen.

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On Friday, Del Rosario urged Duterte and his officials to focus on enforcing the 2016 Hague ruling during the last year of his term. “It is our hope that this remaining period will not be wasted on blaming Filipinos regarding the 2012 Scarborough Standoff,” he said. 

“Instead, the remaining months of President Duterte’s term should be spent on what our Constitution mandates: the enforcement of the Arbitral Award and protection of the West Philippine Sea for the sake of the present and future generations of Filipinos,” Del Rosario added. – Rappler.com

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.