Senatorial aspirant and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno is resigned to the fact it will be the next administration that will take action to thwart China’s ownership claim over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Diokno, who is running for senator under Vice President Leni Robredo’s slate, is not counting on the Duterte administraton to assert the country’s landmark arbitral win.
“The Filipino people don’t expect this current administration to stand up to China and defend the country’s territorial rights in its remaining months in power,” he said in a statement.
“They are looking at the next administration to do better in dealing with this matter,” Diokno added.
The veteran lawyer was referring to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey indicating that 82 percent of Filipinos want the country’s next president to assert the country’s rights over the WPS and push for the enforcement of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision.
The 2016 Hague ruling invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim, which is based on nine dashes found on ancient Chinese maps that cover the entire West Philippine Sea.
This reaffirmed the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) principle, which stated that all features located within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines rightfully belong to the country.
The arbitration win was the product of the Aquino administration, but the victory was handed down on July 12, 2016, barely two weeks after President Duterte assumed office.
Diokno has presented various ways that the next administration can undertake to thwart Chinese incursions in the Philippine waters.
He noted the next government can assert the country’s EEZ in the West Philippine Sea and its arbitral ruling victory without resorting to war with China.
Diokno said the Philippines can enter into a multilateral agreement with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members with overlapping claims on the West Philippine Sea, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
“The best way to resolve this issue is not to enter into a bilateral agreement with China, but with other states that have conflicting claims in the area,” said Diokno, citing it will put the country in an equal footing when dealing with the Asian giant.
He added the new administration should also heed the suggestions of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on the WPS issue.
Carpio suggested the signing of a convention that declares the entire Spratlys area an international marine protected area to protect the interest of the Philippines and other ASEAN claimants, and participating in joint patrols.
Carpio earlier said it is necessary to sign an agreement indicating that the high-tide geologic features in the Spratlys generate only territorial seas and not EEZ to ensure freedom of navigation in the WPS.