Palace: Duterte ‘courting dangers’ if Constitution’s EEZ provision is enforced
MANILA, Philippines — Pushing President Rodrigo Duterte to enforce the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) provision in the Constitution is like “courting dangers” in the midst of tension over disputed areas in the South China Sea, Malacañang said Monday.
Article XII Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution states that “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
But, according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel: “That provision, if you enforce that, literally, then you’re courting dangers because precisely China would not want that.”
The presidential mouthpiece who also serves as President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel also said: “In other words, what benefit would you have if you enforce that provision and then (lose) everything?”
Duterte earned a sharp rebuke last week after he belittled the said provision in the 1987 Constitution – the highest law of the land, saying it was meant only for the “senseless and thoughtless.”
Duterte has repeatedly said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had warned of trouble if the Philippines will insist its claims over the West Philippine Sea, which China believes they own through its nine-dash line policy.
In July 2016, the Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherland, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea.
China, however, has repeatedly ignored the ruling.
“The problem is, as we have also repeatedly said, you cannot enforce it except by way of force, which you cannot do,” said Panelo, referring to the 2016 Hague ruling and adding that no country would even want to help us enforce it.
“Our solution is to negotiate, to be friendly with them. Things that we cannot get out of this arbitral ruling, we may be able to get through negotiations and that is what we have been doing,” he pointed out.
Since he assumed office on June 30, 2016, Duterte has opted to set aside the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in exchange of Chinese loans and other economic perks as he instead fostered warm ties with the Asian superpower.
He has repeatedly said that enforcing the PCA ruling would only result in war.
“When there is an armed conflict certainly lives will be lost. Do we want that to happen if we can get what we want through negotiations?” Panelo said, echoing Duterte’s statement.
“You must remember that China’s position is that ‘It is ours and you will get into trouble if you keep forcing yourselves into us’,” he added.
Setting aside the ruling and engaging China through bilateral talks have been effective, according to Panelo.
“We are getting what we want. The trade relation is much better than prior,” he said.
China and Philippine relations were strained during the term of former President Benigno S. Aquino III after his administration filed a case before the PCA against Beijing over its expansive claims in the South China Sea. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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