On Tuesday, a foreign affairs expert stated that President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on the Philippines not pressing claims over the Scarborough Shoal is “one step away from forgetting” its rights over the contested territory.
University of the Philippines College of Law professor Jay Batongbacal said in his Unang Hirit interview that our President needs to assert our rights over the disputed region in his China visit. Further saying that “we don’t want him to say that we will no longer pursuing our claims to the West Philippine Sea” which seemed to be where President Duterte’s previous statements were leading to.
Prior to his visit to China, Duterte had mentioned that he would only be raising the fishermen’s rights to fish within the exclusive economic zone as they are prevented access to the Panatag Shoal, which is considered a part of Zambales, by the Chinese despite the Philippines winning the arbitration case over disputed territories in July.
Batongbacal further adds, “Karapatan talaga natin yun. It’s not a matter of them allowing. It should be the Chinese stopping all these activities they’ve been doing to prevent our fishermen from fishing.”
On the contrary, Foreign Affair Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. states that President Duterte and Xi Jinping shall have “no substantial talk” regarding conflicts on the West Phillippine Sea.
In a news briefing in Brunei, Yasay said that, “We’re not afraid to negotiate with China when the opportunity to negotiate is there. We’re also not afraid to tell China that we are in no position to derogate our rights under international laws… We say this very openly and China recognizes this.”
He also adds that they are trying to “build on the loss trust that was weakened or eroded during the past administration” hence, “it is not time to discuss substantively resolving this issue.”
Batongbacal expresses the need for the President Duterte to give out clear statements instead of contradictory ones because it leads to uncertainties. He also further comments that the President should have brought fishermen instead of businessmen to China to lessen the impact of the issue.