Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. blamed the previous administration for withdrawing the Philippine Navy vessel first during the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff that eventually left the features to the possession of the China.
Speaking at the Talk to the People with President Duterte Monday night, Locsin explained the Philippines has the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on its side given that Scarborough Shoal is way within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Locsin, along with Presidential Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana joined the President in his regular talk to help explain the circumstances that led the Philippines to withdraw from the Scarborough Shoal standoff.
“We were the first to withdraw. But we have — under UNCLOS which is very — which is already old, we have first right to be there but we pulled out. Now, who needs to explain then?” Locsin said.
What the previous administration should have done at the time of the standoff, according to Locsin, is to allow the other side’s vessels to go first since “we are within the exclusive economic zone and the Chinese ship is not”.
Last week, the President challenged former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio to a debate on the issue of the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff between a Philippine Navy ship and several Chinese Coast guard and fishing vessels.
“I think before you start any debate about the merits of the — or the obligations generated by the arbitral award, you must first settle the issue: Who in a game of chicken stopped his car on the edge of the abyss first?” Locsin said.
On the earlier statements of former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario that the United States brokered a deal for both sides to “stand down”, Locsin said the US position at that time which was not to take any side, was merely a “suggestion”.
“But when they confronted themselves, the interference — the participation of the United States was to try to stop people from attacking each other. It’s a — they think it’s their job. So they said, ‘stand down’. So they stood down. And then United States told both sides, not taking sides, said ‘withdraw’. Now, if you believe, your government at that time believes that that is yours, why will you withdraw? These are only good offices of the United States, it is a suggestion, ‘I think you should both withdraw’,” the country’s top diplomat said.