By Marjaleen Ramos
Former presidential spokesman and international relations expert Harry Roque Jr. on Thursday said that President Duterte’s comments on the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the US have legal basis.
“It was a bit sarcastic but with legal basis. He [Duterte] was sarcastic because he was addressing the issue on the bigger perspective that the people are accusing him of selling out to China,” Roque said.
“That’s why he said, ‘I’ve had it with this criticism, let America walk the talk, and let them send warships, and then we will support them,” he continued.
Roque cited the tension between the Philippine warship and Chinese ships in the Scarborough Shoal.
“Why do I say that it is actually with legal basis? Remember in 2014, we lost Scarborough, and we lost Scarborough because they sent at least three warships to the area, forcibly removing our coast guard and navy from the area, as well as excluded our fishermen from fishing in the area. That, in my mind, is an armed attack,” he added.
He also recalled that China has built three artificial islands, which the Arbitral Tribunal ruled as part of the exclusive economic zone. “Therefore there is a military occupation of parts of our EEZ, and military occupations are always governed by the Geneva Conventions or the LOS (Law of the Sea), and the LOS are always applicable in times of conflict,” Roque said.
“They did send warships in the area… forcibly evicted us in the area.”
Roque said that the president was exasperated as he was in the position to assert what is right for the country.
He added that Duterte is subtly telling critics to let him work on his policy with China.
“If you want to be legally correct about it, we were a victim of an armed attack. An armed attack is the sending of regular armed forces to a territory of another.”
President Duterte has earlier called on the United States to invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines amid the tension with China in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte made the statement days after the Philippines marked the third anniversary of the Hague Ruling recognizing the Philippines’ claim over the disputed waters.
Duterte said he would join the US if it sends the Seventh Fleet to China. (With a report from Arygyll Geducos)