Palace: Hague ruling not shelved, just unenforceable

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said that the Philippine government has not shelved the Hague ruling, but pointed out that the country cannot simply enforce it alone because it may put the lives of people in the disputed waters at risk.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said China’s recent moves in the West Philippine Sea should prompt the government to finally unshelve the victory won by the Philippines almost three years ago.

In a statement, Panelo said that the government was committed to keeping the country and its people safe, as enforcing the ruling could risk lives.

“This administration never shelved the arbitral ruling. It only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it,” he said.

“[N]either do we have the capability of enforcing it alone by force, not to mention the fact that performing armed acts of enforcement could only trigger a bloody war that could cost the lives of our countrymen and destruction of properties in our land,” he added.

Even if it was set aside temporarily, Panelo said it was unshelved after Malacañang’s strongly-worded statement on Friday, reminding China that the Philippines has won the Hague ruling.

“The fact of invoking the arbitral ruling in our latest statement as well as asserting our sovereignty on our territory and right over our exclusive economic zone in response to an official statement from the Chinese government reiterating its claim of ownership and sovereignty over the disputed areas, effectively removed it from the shelf by virtue of such invocation and assertion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Panelo said Del Rosario should refrain from flashing his false patriotism when the Philippines lost control over the Scarborough Shoal during his stint at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“Moreover, Mr. Del Rosario, being responsible for the loss of the country’s possession of the Scarborough Shoal during his stint as Foreign Affairs Secretary by naively causing the withdrawal of our armed ship in the area of conflict, certainly cannot put forward his pretended patriotism and feigned righteousness as if he has not contributed vastly to the unwelcome situation we are presently in,” he said.

Panelo then reiterated the government’s stand that the ruling permanent, advising China to respect the decision anchored on international law accepted by countries across the globe.

“We reiterate our unchanged stance – the arbitral ruling is irreversible, the same being based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law accepted by most, if not by all, nations. It has the stamp of permanence,” he said.

“We urge the Chinese government to respect it, and we hope the mechanism of bilateral negotiations between the countries forge a mutually satisfactory solution to the conflict based on internationally accepted principles of justice and reciprocity, as well as anchored on the dictates of each national security and aspirations of their people,” he added.

Recent talks and an exchange of statements between Philippine and Chinese officials on the West Philippine Sea started after reports of Chinese vessels, perceived to be Chinese militia, circling near Philippine-occupied islands in the disputed waters.

On Friday, Panelo said that, while the government agreed with China that the dispute can be settled peacefully, it is a known fact that the Spratlys belongs to the Philippines.

“We concur with the Chinese official’s statement that the dispute can be best threshed out through peaceful negotiation and consultation between the two countries just as it will strengthen the Philippines-China relationship towards a solid partnership beneficial to Filipino and Chinese communities,” he said.

“The arbitral ruling, however, has already been rendered and we remain steadfast in maintaining our claims with respect to our territory and exclusive economic zones pursuant not only to the said arbitral judgment based on accepted principles of public international law but consistent with the directives of our Constitution and the aspirations of the Filipino people,” he added.

Last week, President Duterte told China to lay off Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, saying he will not hesitate to shed blood if the Chinese would harm Filipinos in the Pag-asa Island.