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Ex-SolGen cautions Duterte on raising Hague ruling during China visit

/ 08:30 PM August 08, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte must not bring up the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea when he visits China this month because such move will “not be fruitful at all,” former Solicitor General and Minister of Justice Estelito Mendoza said Thursday.

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“I will not suggest that he bring it [Arbitral ruling] because I do not think it will be fruitful at all. We will certainly be rebuffed,” Mendoza told reporters at the Rotary Club of Manila.

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Mendoza helped craft the country’s Baselines Law.

He said the case filed by the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III before the Permanent Court of Arbitration was viewed by China as a “provocation.”

“That [filing of a case before the Arbitral Tribunal] generated the problem, the insurmountable problem of the fortified islands,” he said.

As proof, he said, instead of responding to the Arbitral case, China has opted to strengthen its military presence in the West Philippine Sea.

“These have become effectively floating aircraft carriers in the middle of the West Philippine Sea, beyond restoration to their original state without igniting a naval conflict and a highly destructive war,” Mendoza said.

Prior to the Arbitration case and ruling, Mendoza pointed out that former Presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had adopted a diplomatic approach with China, who, he said preferred to settle disputes by talking.

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“If we disagree, what we do? China would refuse to have that [arbitration]. China will simply say ‘then we talk’ and talk some more if we fail until we reach a solution,” Mendoza said.

He credited Duterte for opting to adopt the same approach as that of Marcos and Arroyo.

“It is perhaps premature to anticipate how President Duterte will deal with this issue finally but, even at this point I may confidently say that he has navigated the troubled waters on these issues adroitly notwithstanding the persistent needling of the Arbitral Claim advocates,” he added.

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TAGS: China, President Rodrigo Duterte, West Philippine Sea
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