Former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon on Friday, May 14, decried Malacanang’’s stand on the Julian Felipe reef, saying that Duterte administration officials were wrong in claiming that the Hague ruling invalidated the Philippine claim over the reef.
“It (Palace) has employed amusing double speak on the status of Julian Felipe reef, arguing that it was no less than the Hague ruling that invalidated the Philippine claim over the reef,” said Ridon, convenor of Infrawatch and a co-petitioner in Magallona vs. Ermita on the constitutionality of the Archipelagic Baselines Law.
He stressed that the Julian Felipe reef which is now being swarmed by Chinese maritime militia “remains disputed territory despite” the Hague Rulling.
“Even if it were true that Julian Felipe is within the territorial waters of other claimant states in the South China Sea despite the reef being within our exclusive economic zone, what is undisputed is that the reef and its surrounding waters remain disputed territory,” said Ridon.
In a statement, the former solon explained: “Beijing, Hanoi and Manila all continue to claim sovereignty or sovereign rights over Julian Felipe, and despite the arbitral ruling, it is the state’s obligation to maintain our claim over still disputed areas.” Ridon also chided President Duterte for his continued insistence that China has granted many favors to the Philippines which it treats as a friend.
“But what is clear is that the President remains confused on the exact gains from our pivot to China,” said Ridon.
“The President has placed the West Philippine Sea in the line of fire, and for what? For two bridges along the Pasig River which employ Chinese laborers?,” Ridon asked.
He pointed out that the development loans and vaccines delivered by China to the Philippine government cannot be considered as favors “because tthese are bilateral contracts that will be paid with interest and for full value.” “Yet, as the President admitted today, he has even taken a step back on oil exploration and development in the West Philippine Sea upon the warning of the Chinese President that there will be ‘trouble’ as soon as Manila commences oil exploration within disputed waters” noted Ridon.
“How can all of these things translate into what the President calls debt of gratitude, when Beijing has not budged an inch on its position on disputed waters, and has even threatened trouble, or in the words of the President, war?,”the former partylist solon lamented.