President Duterte made inaccurate references when he talked about the West Philippine Sea conflict but his position remained “consistent,” Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque came to the President’s defense after an online petition has been initiated urging Duterte to retract alleged “damaging” statements related to the West Philippine Sea. The petition, filed by former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio at change.org website, has earned more than 6,900 signatures.
When Duterte claimed China was in possession of the West Philippine Sea, Roque clarified the President was referring to Scarborough Shoal. He mentioned the President’s previous account that the country’s ship pullout led to the loss of the shoal to China in 2012.
On the President’s claim the arbitral award on the South China Sea issue was just a piece of paper, Roque explained that Duterte was referring to the lack of mechanism to enforce the court victory.
“Ilagay natin yan sa konteksto at perhaps sa lenggwahe ni Presidente, he may not be as accurate but consistent ang sinasabi niya (Let’s put it in context and perhaps in the President’s language, he may not be as accurate but his statements have been consistent),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Monday, May 17.
“So ‘yung China in control of West Philippine Sea, that refers to Scarborough. ‘Yung it is a piece of paper, it’s because under international law, walang established enforcement mechanism,” he added.
In the signature drive, Carpio demanded Duterte to retract three statements related to the West Philippine Sea that were supposedly “contrary” to the Constitution.
The statements questioned by Carpio are the following: 1. The July 12, 2016 Arbitral Award is just a scrap of paper that deserves to be thrown to the wastebasket; 2. The Chinese fishermen can fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea; and, 3. China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea.
“These statements are contrary to the Constitution, waive our sovereign rights under the Arbitral Award and even concede to China possession of the West Philippine Sea when in fact China is not physically and legally in possession of the West Philippine Sea,” the petition read.
Instead of retracting the statements, Roque opted to just explain what the President really meant.
“Ang papel ko bilang spokesperson ay linawin nga kung ano sinabi ng Presidente. Noong sinabi niya when China was in possession of West Philippine Sea, totoo ‘yun but he was referring to Scarborough Shoal (My role as a spokesperson is clarify what the President said. When he said China was in possession of West Philippine Sea, that’s true but he was referring to Scarborough Shoal),” Roque said.
“Kasi lahat ng binanggit niya when he mentioned West Philippine Sea, kadikit yung pangalan ni Secretary Albert meaning he was referring to the loss of Scarborough shoal at ‘yung katotohanan na kontrolado ng China ang Scarborough Shoal (Because everything he said when he mentioned West Philippine Sea, the name of Secretary Albert was mentioned, meaning he was referring to the loss of Scarborough Shoal at the truth is China controls Scarborough Shoal),” he added.
On the arbitral award that nullified China’s claims in the South China Sea was supposedly just a piece of paper, Roque maintained that there was no mechanism to implement the decision. He said one can only hope China would follow international law.
“Under international law, unless may Chapter 7 collective security measure, wala talagang pamamaraan para ipatupad ‘yan (there is really no way to implement that),” he said.
“You can only hope the China as a member state of UN and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council will of course comply with its obligations under international law but beyond that, talagang wala ibang pamamaraan (there is no other way),” he added.