FOR former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said President Rodrigo Duterte is on the right track in dealing with the Chinese government regarding the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Arroyo yesterday led the launching of a primer entitled “The Ocean Space or the Maritime Area of the Philippines,” which was written by Atty. Estelito Mendoza.
The former president refused to give suggestions to the Duterte administration on how to handle the dispute with China over the Kalayaan or Scarborough shoal and the Bajo de Masinloc.
“I can only share what happened in my administration. I don’t know all the facts that are available to his administration so I don’t dare to make any recommendations,” Arroyo said.
“As far as I’m concerned President Duterte knows what he is doing,” she added.
As an economist, the lawmaker made a general recommendation which is to continue and improve the economic ties of the two countries amidst the sea row.
“Our strategic direction should be to emphasize our economic relations with China. Let’s focus on the economic ties,” she said.
Arroyo refused to comment on Duterte’s tongue-in-cheek statement that he would sail to Pagasa Island and raise the Philippine Flag there to make it clear to China that the island belongs to the Filipinos.
It was during Arroyo’s time when Republic Act 9522 or an Act to Define the Baselines of the Territorial Sea of the Philippines became law.
Section 2 of the law states that “the baselines in The Kalayaan Group and Bajo de Masinloc over which the Philippines likewise exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction shall be determined as ‘Regime of Islands’ under the Republic of the Philippines consistent with Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).”
Arroyo did not directly blame the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III on the sea dispute but said the issue was worsen when the later filed cases and complaint before the United Nations Arbitration Tribunal.
According to Arroyo, as supported by Mendoza, the China is only claiming the nine-dash –line in Bajo de Masinloc and some parts of The Kalayaan Island Group and not contesting the sovereignty over the Philippine archipelago.
It was during the time of Aquino when the Philippines brought the issue to the UN to which it ruled in favor of the Filipinos.
Based on the ruling of the UN Arbitral Tribunal, the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (in the South China Sea) and that China’s “nine-dash line” is invalid.
The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line.
“Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China,” it added.
The Philippines filed its case in January 2013 following a tense standoff between Chinese and Philippines ships at Scarborough shoal in April 2012.