MANILA - An activist lawmaker on Sunday insisted the US ''has no right'' to interfere as the Philippines negotiates with China over the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
Bayan Muna Rep.Carlos Isagani Zarate argued that years of Washington posturing failed to bring back Filipinos to the rich fishing ground amid a blockade by Chinese vessels, which was only removed Friday, less than a week after President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing pledging closer ties.
"The US has no right to assess or interfere on the Panatag shoal issue, as in fact, it is due to its saber-rattling and supposed Asian pivot that escalated the tension in the West Philippine Sea, in the first place. Wala naman din silang naitutulong kaya manahimik na lang sila [They were not able to help with anything so they should just keep silent]," Zarate said in a statement.
"No amount of US posturing and promises resulted to this development," he added.
China in 2012 seized control of the Scarborough Shoal, known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines, following a three-month standoff after a Philippine Navy vessel tried to arrest Chinese fishermen found illegally hauling giant clams there.
Washington, Manila's only treaty ally, dispatched patrol vessels in the strategic waters, intensified joint patrols with Filipino troops and backed an aribtration case filed by President Benigno Aquino III. [ally: http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/10/24/16/us-remains-strong-ph-ally-says-top-american-diplomat]
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2012 and invalidated China's historic claims to the resource-rich sea.
But Duterte has not flaunted the ruling and instead used his Beijing trip to vaunt his move away from US in favor of Beijing.
On Friday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said there have been indications that the Chinese Coast Guard has left Scarborough Shoal after Duterte's state visit to China. An ABS-CBN News report confirmed Saturday that a group of Filipino fishermen successfully returned from a fishing trip in the disputed shoal.
Zarate welcomed the latest development and attributed it to the "Duterte-style of diplomacy."
"What is needed now is to ensure that our fisher folk could continue to fish at the Panatag Shoal and at the same time not compromise our national sovereignty," he added. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse