MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte should stop blaming others for China's continuing militarization of its artificial islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, a former solicitor general said Sunday.
Lawyer Florin Hilbay, who was solicitor general during the time of President Benigno Aquino III, said the Duterte government should file a formal protest against China's installation of military equipment in the disputed seas.
"I think we should stop blaming other countries and other administrations for whatever precedes the failure they may have committed. The ball is now with the administration to find ways to enforce that decision," he told ANC.
Duterte last Friday hit the United States and former President Aquino for their supposed failure to stop China’s militarization of the disputed South China Sea.
"The only country who could have stopped the Chinese… was America," Duterte said in a speech in Davao City. "Hindi puwede 'yung Navy natin (cannot handle it), it could have resulted in [a] massacre and I was not [yet] the president [then]."
Hilbay emphasized that an arbitral tribunal ruling that clarified the legal rights of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea came out in July 2016, when Duterte was already sitting as President.
He said it is never too late to invoke the arbitral tribunal ruling which he calls the "fundamental basis for our legal and moral claim over those waters."
"We need to formally protest over and over again. Because in due time, China will start saying, because of the failure of the Philippines to invoke the decision... because of this failure to make any forms of protest before China or any UN agency, then we have effectively waived our rights over that decision, and that would be the saddest, most tragic occurrence in the Philippines," he warned.