Arbitral Award is 'meaningless' if purpose is to reclaim Scarborough Shoal from China - Locsin

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday supported President Duterte’s stance that the 2016 Arbitral Award that invalidated China’s excessive claims in the West Philippine Sea is “meaningless for now” if the purpose is to retake the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (AP Photo / Sakchai Lalit / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Locsin was reacting to the interaction between the President and former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile during the Talk to the People Monday night where the two gave their respective appreciation of the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff and the possible implications of bringing the issue of the Award to the United Nations.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile discusses the West Philippine Sea issue during a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on May 17, 2021. (Malacañang)

“Duterte is completely correct. It is meaningless for now-for the purpose of retaking possession of what China took from us because we let it,” Locsin tweeted adding that the President is right by not bringing the issue to the UN where “China has the votes”.

He instead accused the authors behind the call to bring the Arbitral Award issue before the UN General Assembly (UNGA) of using it “for the purposes of the coming election campaign” in order to keep them in the news.

Locsin was obviously referring to retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario, two of the staunchest critics of the President’s policy on the West Philippine Sea.

The country’s top diplomat pointed out that bringing the Award and the Scarborough Shoal issues to the UNGA will just “turn our loss of possession into Chinese right”.

China took possession of the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 when the Philippines withdrew its Navy ship during a standoff with about 30 Chinese maritime vessels.

Locsin said the Arbitral Award itself was brilliant for its abstraction by merely defining what the maritime features are in terms of maritime rights.

“See the brilliance. The Arbitral Tribunal trashed (China’s) historic claim as a basis of right because history yields to law. Therefore, if China held on to and got more, the reefs would be within Philippine territory under UNCLOS. How then would access to them be possible if we denied passage through our territorial seas?” he said.

Furthermore, he is confident that the President will not withdraw the Philippine Navy currently deployed in the West Philippine Sea even as he warned that if China will force its way through, such action would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

“No way. Duterte will not withdraw our Navy from the West Philippine Sea. Period. If passage is forced our Navy will fight and that would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty, World War 3 hereabouts and nuclear winter in our tropical latitude would set in,” Locsin said.

During his interaction with the President, Enrile said while the Arbitral Award was not meaningless, any resolution coming from the UN will not have much effect since the body does not have police powers.

“Sa aking paningin, hindi naman nasasayang yung decision ng arbitration diyan sa bagay na yan sapagka’t nandiyan na yun eh. Sa palagay ko nakarehistro ang decision sa record ng UN (I think the arbitration decision on the issue will not go to waste because it’s already there. This decision is already in the UN’s records),” said the 97-year-old former Senate president.