China ignored Asean agreement to ease sea tensions, says Aquino
Which administration secured the landmark ruling from an international arbitral court recognizing the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea?
Former President Benigno Aquino III on Monday raised this question as he played down President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that his administration did nothing to stop China’s militarization of the South China Sea, including waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the strategic waterway known to Filipinos as West Philippine Sea.
Speaking at a news briefing, Aquino said Beijing disregarded an agreement it had entered into with member-states of the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) in 2002 to ease the tensions triggered by the territorial dispute.
“Do I really have to answer that?” Aquino said in response to a question by a reporter about the President’s remarks that Aquino was to blame for China’s construction of military bases on Philippine-claimed reefs in the Spratly islands.
“Who filed the arbitration [case]? Who campaigned among the Asean countries? Which administration produced the communiqué or statement more critical of this island development of China?” he asked.
The Aquino administration challenged China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013 after China seized Panatag Shoal — internationally known as Scarborough Shoal — from the Philippines in 2012.
The UN-backed tribunal resolved the case on July 12, 2016, ruling that China’s sweeping claim has no basis in international law and that Beijing has violated Manila’s sovereign right to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea.
The resolution came down shortly after President Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016, but in at least two speeches he claimed that the arbitral ruling was handed down during the Aquino administration and that his predecessor had failed to invoke it against China.
Aquino opted not to make a big deal of the President’s erroneous claim, saying the President may have just forgotten the correct date of the tribunal’s decision.
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