With barely a year left into the Duterte Administration, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is demanding an explanation as to who ordered the Philippine Navy ship to withdraw from the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) standoff with Chinese vessels in the summer of 2012.
In a tweet on Friday, Locsin said he does not believe that the United States asked the Philippines to pull out its ship from the Scarborough Shoal and instead suggested that it was “purely a Filipino government decision”.
“(The) US did not tell us to do that; it couldn’t; that was purely a Filipino government decision. We demand an explanation,” he said.
Former DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario earlier claimed that at the height of the standoff in April 2012, the United States “brokered” a mutual agreement for both the Philippines and Chinese ships to withdraw from Scarborough Shoal “by certain hours.”
But China, according to Del Rosario, “deceitfully breached” the agreement and “continues to openly violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines by illegally occupying certain features in the West Philippine Sea.”
Only several days ago, Locsin filed a series of diplomatic protests against China over the incursion of more than 200 Chinese fishing and maritime militia vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, using the Arbitral Award as one of its justifications.
But in his latest tweets, he is now suggesting that while the Award may have shot down Beijing’s “historical pretensions of claims”, it “did not order China to leave the West Philippine Sea nor the features it seized”.
“Like all international bodies, it has no enforcement capability or authority unlike the Security Council by unanimous vote. The only body that can kick another country out of its territory is the one whose territory was taken; and the time to do that was when our Navy ship faced off with Chinese ship(s),” the country’s top diplomat said.
Locsin made this new argument on Twitter, days after President Duterte himself called the Arbitral ruling “just a paper” that can be thrown in the wastebasket.
On Thursday, Locsin expressed his support to the suggestion of President Duterte that Del Rosario and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio be investigated and held accountable for the questionable pullout of a Philippine navy vessel during the Scarborough Shoal standoff.
“We’re all old on both sides of the argument about the loss of Scarborough Shoal; it is time that those ones who were in charge of protecting our territory come clean on what exactly happened when we walked-rather sailed away from a confrontation. Could anyone make them do that?” Locsin said.