By Raymund Antonio
Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay has warned the government against entering into a joint exploration agreement with China because this could be tantamount to waiving the country’s victory in the arbitration case over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
“May implikasyon ito sa ating pagkapanalo. Kung papasok tayo sa joint development sa China, baka ang maging implikasyon noon ay ipinamigay na natin ang naipanalong desisyon,” he said.
(This has implication to our victory. If we are entering into a joint development with China, its implication could be giving up the decision we had won.)
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday for a two-day state visit that is expected to include the signing of framework for the joint exploration of the South China Sea and other activities.
It took 13 years before another Chinese president could go on a state visit to the Philippines.
Philippine officials rolled out the red carpet for the arrival of Xi during the state visit, but Hilbay indicated that this could be interpreted as a sign that the government has given up the country’s ownership of the West Philippine Sea.
“Hindi tayo patatawarin ng mga susunod na henerasyon kung malaman nilang pagdating ng panahon na nagkaroon ng gobyernong ipinamigay iyong ating desisyon na naipanalo,” he said in a television interview. (The next generations would not forgive us if time comes they would know that the government gave up that decision.)
The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines, as affirmed by a Hague tribunal ruling in July 2016. The tribunal has junked China’s claim over these Philippine waters.
That time, Hilbay was a key figure in the country’s legal team that won the arbitration case against China over the territorial dispute in the WPS.
The former solicitor general said the issue on the West Philippines Sea does not only deal with sovereignty, but also to food and energy security, as well as it can provide fish and oil for Filipinos.
Hilbay added that allowing Chinese planes to land in Davao on several occasions had an implication on the country’s foreign policy, which should be looked into by both chambers of Congress.
He also pointed out the government has put aside the landmark ruling for economic considerations for allowing China to fund some of its major infrastructure projects.