Bayan sees futility of raising arbitral ruling vs China in Duterte-Xi talks
MANILA, Philippines – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s intent to raise the arbitral ruling in his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a group fears that it might have no effect because of the administration’s alleged pro-Beijing stance.
In a statement on Tuesday, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said that some favors that the administration sought from the Asian superpower — like debts and sponsored projects — might have an effect on the high-level discussions.
“While it is correct to raise the issue of the arbitral ruling in Duterte’s meeting with Xi Jinping, we are concerned that our position and legal victory have been eroded by previous pronouncements and actions of the Duterte government,” Reyes noted.
“We are wary that the debts we are seeking from China, as well as presidential pronouncements that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea, all undermine our legal victory at this point,” he added.
Duterte has made several pronouncements about raising the decision of the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). He is set to fly to Beijing this September 1.
This is amid the various Chinese-funded projects in the administration’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
“Our assertion of our legal victory is weakened by our dependence on loans from China. We must prioritize national interest at this stage and not allow our position to be further undermined,” Reyes explained.
“President Duterte is ultimately liable for the failure of the Philippines to defend our EEZ and even our territorial waters from China’s incursions,” he warned.
Last 2016, the PCA decided that China’s nine-dash line claim, which encompasses most of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), has no legal and historical basis.
The President’s decision came after a series of incidents involving Chinese ships in the WPS. Last June 9, a local fishing boat sank and its 22 Filipino crew left at sea after a collision with a Chinese vessel.
Then, research teams using data from a satellite in orbit said that more Chinese ships have been entering the country since 2017.
Reyes also called for more concrete steps in defending the country’s sovereignty.
“Aside from raising the arbitral ruling, concrete steps must be taken to protect our exclusive economic zone from China’s incursions. Joint exploration deals, at a time when China refuses to recognize our EEZ, are ill-timed and may be detrimental to the national interest in the long-term,” Reyes said.
“The Filipino people must continue to protest China’s arrogant refusal to recognize the arbitral ruling that upholds our EEZ. Other nations should likewise condemn China’s actions that are contrary to international law,” he added./ac
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