Duterte strategy will set back PH position
The proposed joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea would push the country’s position in the maritime dispute back to square one, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said on Wednesday.
Hilbay said the 2016 arbitral court ruling was clear that the Philippines should have full control and supervision over the West Philippine Sea.
“The government’s strategy is to ‘set aside’ territorial disputes,” Hilbay told a forum at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Quezon City.
No longer contested
“But I think it is impossible to set these aside, because there is nothing to set aside because this maritime space is no longer contested,” he said.
The arbitral court invalidated China’s sweeping claim and declared it had violated the Philippines’ sovereignty.
Beijing, however, has refused to recognize the decision, and President Duterte has set it aside in exchange for aid, loans and investment from China.
Hilbay said if the Philippine government insisted on setting aside the ruling, the legal consequence would be a permanent waiver that would renounce the Philippines’ victory in the arbitration case.
“The decision in the Philippines versus China puts into question all [of China’s] activities in South China Sea. Right now, they are seen as aggressors and illegal occupants,” he said.
“But the moment you enter into a contract into a joint development, it would waive the whole decision and validates everything that China is doing,” he added.
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