Joint exploration with China may be a 'trojan horse': ex-SolGen

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 17 2017 10:37 PM

This photo taken on June 7, 2014 shows fishing boats anchored at Ulugan Bay, near the mouth of the South China Sea, off Puerto Princesa on Palawan island. Ulugan Bay, with a coastline partly concealed by thick mangrove forests, is at the center of the Philippine military's efforts to shore up the defense of contested South China Sea islands and waters. Ted Aljibe, AFP

MANILA- Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay on Tuesday frowned upon plans for a joint development venture with China in the West Philippine Sea, saying it undermines Manila's claims in the area.

Hilbay, a member of the Philippine delegation that won the case against China in The Hague last year, explained that agreeing to a joint venture with Beijing is an "implied waiver" of the Philippines' exclusive rights to the area.

"The term I used is a trojan horse...Joint development is a partnership with China, the assumption of which is China has equal rights to the area," he said in an interview on ANC's "Beyond Politics."

"That is an implied waiver. You are recognizing that there is a valid claim there [by China]," he added.

China has since ignored the Philippines' 2016 legal victory, where an international arbitration court invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the waters. 

Last month, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua said Beijing and Manila are in the initial stages of discussing the possibility of joint development in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in the resource-rich Recto Bank (Reed Bank).

Hilbay, an appointee of former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said he is "disappointed and frustrated" with the current administration's decision to consider a joint venture, which disregards the Philippines' win.

He thinks enforcing the arbitral ruling is best left to administrations after President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It was a big win. It was an effort that took the government several years to accomplish. To a large extent, it was also an international effort because we were aided by our supportive neighbors during the time," he said.