Duterte did not initiate current issues on WPS, says Roque

Published April 26, 2021, 4:26 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said the current issues in the West Philippine Sea did not arise during President Duterte’s watch as this was a problem inherited from the previous administration.

File photo of Chinese vessels spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 27, 2021 (Photo courtesy of National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea)

In his press briefing on Monday, Roque said it was important for Filipinos to understand that President Duterte is doing what he can with the situation.

“Hindi po naninisi ang Presidente. Hindi po natin kinikwestyon ang pagmamahal sa bayan ng kahit sino. Pero ang pinaiintindi lang po natin, ang mga problema ng West Philippine Sea, hindi po ‘yan kagagawan ng Presidente (The President is not blaming anyone. We are not questioning the people’s love for our country. But we want people to understand is the problem in the West Philippine Sea is not the fault of the President),” he said.

“Ang ginagawa po niya, humahanap ang lunas na ituloy ang ating relasyon (What the President is doing is he is trying to find a solution to continue with our relationship with China) without sacrificing even an inch of our territory,” he added.

According to Roque, it will take a long time before the situation in the disputed waters gets resolved because the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling in 2016 did not cover the islands in the disputed waters.

“Yung award na pinanalunan natin eh tungkol lang sa karagatan. Ang pinag-aagawan isla–lupa (The award given to us is about the sea but what we’re disputing are the islands),” he said.

“Iba po ang law applicable. Hindi po applicable ang United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (It requires a different law. The UNCLOS is not applicable here),” he added.

Roque said the Philippines thought that amending the Baseline and Territorial Sea of the Philippines law would help the country’s case. Unfortunately, it did not.

“Sinabi nga po ng Tribunal itself na hindi nakatulong ang batas na ito kasi hindi naman po ini-incorporate ang Spratlys sa tama rin na pamamaraan (The Tribunal itself said this law did not help because the Spratlys were not incorporated properly),” he said.

The Palace official said the Congress should work on reviewing the said law.

“Dapat po pag-aralan ng Kongreso at kinakailangan po repasuhin ang batas na ‘yan (The Congress should review this law),” he said.

“Kailangang ibalik ang ating Treaty of Paris dahil sa international law naman po kinikilala po ‘yan under customary international law (We should bring back the Treaty of Paris because that is recognized under customary international law),” he added.

Roque was referring to the 1987 Constitution wherein the Treaty of Paris was not mentioned unlike in the previous versions of the Constitution.

Paragraph 574 of the PCA South China Sea Arbitration stated that the Philippines could not declare archipelagic baselines surrounding the Spratly Islands.

Article 47 of the Convention limits the use of archipelagic baselines to circumstances where “within such baselines are included the main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1 to 1 and 9 to 1.”

The ratio of water to land in the Spratly Islands would greatly exceed 9:1 under any conceivable system of baselines.