By Genalyn Kabiling
The government will continue to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and “not totally forget” about the arbitral victory in the territory despite China’s objections, Malacañang said Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo assured the public that the government would not waive any right or consent that will undermine the county’s sovereign claims in the area.
“The Philippine government, as a matter of policy and principle, continues to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea, and this, despite whatever reluctance or objections there may be on the part of China in recognizing our rights over our exclusive economic zone therein,” Panelo said.
“If there is no force in the meantime in any part of the world that the arbitral ruling can be enforced, neither is there any force on earth that can compel or intimidate the Philippines into abandoning or waiving it,” he said.
He said the President Duterte mentioned the arbitral ruling, that nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, was already “final, binding and unappealable.”
“It is there forever and ever, as in forever. Not only is it carved in stone but it is as permanent as the sun rising on the east,” he said.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio recently cautioned that President Duterte has no authority to set aside the country’s arbitral victory in the South China Sea in favor of a joint exploration deal with China.
Carpio, one of the strong advocates of the country’s ownership of the WPS, pointed out that to “set aside” the ruling was to “abandon, overrule, reverse or annul” it.
Duterte earlier said China was willing to give the Philippines a bigger share in the planned oil exploration in the South China if it would set aside the 2016 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. China has refused to recognize the Hague-based court’s arbitral decision that ruled in favor of Manila.
Panelo, however, informed Carpio that the government was not abandoning the ruling to push for a joint exploration deal with China.
He explained that the President found it “wise and prudent” that the Philippine-China relations should bear fruit by entering into joint exploration agreement with China “even as we continue to dialogue peacefully for the resolution of the conflict in the West Philippine Sea.”
“The President has not abandoned, nor is he abandoning, and neither will he ever abandon the favorable arbitral award issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, more so with respect to our rights in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“Time and time again, PRRD has stressed this fact – the arbitral ruling is final, binding and unappealable. It is there forever and ever, as in forever. Not only is it carved in stone but it is as permanent as the sun rising on the east.
He said Carpio appeared to relish in finding fault in what the President says even if there is none.
“The good Justice can rest assured that the President is always finding ways to resolve the dispute and will not waive any right nor give any consent that will undermine our sovereign claims in the process,” he said.
He said when Duterte said Manila will set aside the ruling to come up with a viable economic activity in the WPS, he meant that “we would, in the meantime, divert our focus to something that would benefit our country in the midst of the impasse with China on our territorial dispute.”
“That is not to say, however, that we will totally forget about the said ruling and waive our sovereign rights as laid out therein,” he said.
“We should remember that diplomatic negotiations to resolve the conflicting claims of the countries anent the issue are ongoing and we are mandating our officials to continue invoking our claims over the exclusive economic zone as against the position of China,” he added.