President Rodrigo Duterte said he would assert Manila’s victory in an international court should Beijing start extracting resources from the South China Sea.
Duterte had refused to raise the landmark ruling last July, which was initiated by his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, as he sought a thaw in relations between the Philippines and China.
“Kung ang China magkuha na sila ng mga oil, o uranium or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila, ‘Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan. You claim it by historical right; by judgment, I won and it’s mine,’” the President said in a speech before the Filipino community in Myanmar Sunday evening.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) said China had no historical rights to the resource-rich waters. Beijing refuses to recognize the ruling.
The President also said that China’s plan to construct a monitoring station on Panatag Shoal could disturb freedom of navigation in the region as he urged the ASEAN and the Chinese government to come up with a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Duterte made the remarks a few hours after he said that the Philippines, even the United States, could not stop China’s construction.
“Ang nakuha lang diyan is the economic zone but ’yung structures na ’yan has nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” Duterte told later in a media interview in Myanmar on Sunday.
“That is why it’s very important for China and the rest of the nation, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” he added.
The Philippines chairs the ASEAN meetings this year.
Duterte reiterated that he could not declare war against China because of its military strength.
Duterte said that he would have to raise The Hague arbitral ruling with China during his term.
The President stressed that the Philippines was only awarded exclusive economic rights to the West Philippine Sea.
“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” Duterte said.
“Entitlements lang naman, hindi naman teritoryo. Eh ang teritoryo, it is not within -- I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he added.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio yesterday called on President Duterte to stop issuing statements that tends to waive -- expressly or impliedly -- the country’s sovereignty over any territory in the West Philippine Sea.
The magistrate issued the appeal after Duterte was quoted to have said that he cannot stop China from building structures on the disputed Panatag Shoal.
“This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their natural patrimony in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said.
In 2012, China occupied Panatag Shoal or the Scarborough Shoal, thereafter considered it as their own by denying Filipino fishermen access to its rich fishing grounds.
But the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries.
Carpio said Duterte is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which is tasked by the Constitution to defend the country’s territory.
Furthermore, Carpio pointed out that under Republic Act 9522 or the Philippines’ Baseline Law, Scarborough Shoal is part of the Philippine territory.
He advised the President to do the following to maintain the country’s sovereign rights over the disputed territory: (1) File a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity; (2) Send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal; (3) Ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty; and (4) Accept the standing U.S. offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, which includes Scarborough Shoal.