PH officials’ inconsistent statements on West PH Sea to benefit China – maritime expert

Published May 12, 2021, 12:46 PM

by Richa Noriega

The Philippine government officials’ inconsistent statements in the country’s stand on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea will benefit China and other countries in the future, a maritime expert said on Wednesday, May 12.

The Philippine Coast Guard conducted maritime patrol alongJulian Felipe Reef on April 13 to 14. (Photo courtesy of the PCG / FILE PHOTO)

Professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the contradicting statements by the Philippine officials can be used as “declaration against interest” in the country’s claims in the disputed areas.

“Over the long run yung inconsistency sa statement at position gagamitin po yan (it will use) against us that is evidence that will be used against us. Ang tawag po dyan ay (It is called as) declaration against interest. So baka sabihin nila na (They will say) it is proof na in the first place hindi naman talaga sigurado ang Pilipinas kung ano ang sa kanya (the Philippines is not really sure what belongs to it),” Batongbacal said in an interview over Super Radyo dzBB.

Batongbacal said these contradicting pronouncements from the officials will give China an upper hand on the case if it will be settled in the future.

He then urged government officials to be consistent on the country’s statements in the West Philippines Sea to strengthen its claims in the disputed areas.

“Kaya nga po mahalaga na kelangan pong consistent tayo sa position natin na ‘yan kasi in the future kung sakaling mag-uusap ang mga bansa na pag-desisyon na lang sa korte ang titignan po nila is yung statement niyo at yung action niyo sa lugar na ‘yan at base po sa past actions and statements (That is why it is important that we need to be consistent in our position, because in the future, if the countries talk about making a decision in court, they will only look at our statements and action in that area, which was also based on our past actions and statements),” he added.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque wondered about the fuss over Julian Felipe Reef, which he argued was not supposedly even part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has issued a “last warning” against those who “talked tough and ended up biting dirt” following the confusion caused by the statement of Roque regarding the Philippine stand on Julian Felipe Reef.

Last March, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said the coast guard authorities reported 220 Chinese fishing vessels were spotted “moored in line formation” at the Julian Felipe Reef on March 7.

The reef is located within the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, according to the task force.