'A tragedy': Duterte squandering Philippines' huge sea row victory vs China - ex-envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2021 09:32 AM | Updated as of May 10 2021 10:14 AM

A sleeping President Rodrigo Duterte is used at a symbolic protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in May 7, 2021 in Makati City. Members of various progressive groups called for the removal of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea and for the government to reassert the country's rightful claim over the territories according to an UNCLOS arbitration ruling in 2016. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is squandering the country's landmark victory against China in the West Philippine Sea, a former ambassador to the United States said Monday. 

Former Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. said the President's statement that the arbitration victory is just a piece of paper is undermining the country's claim to the resource-rich waters.

"It is correct to say that his statements can have an adverse impact on our own position especially when he says that the arbitral ruling is just a piece of paper," he told ANC.

"He's actually squandering the huge victory we had over China and it's a tragedy he's taken that position."

Cuisia also maintained it was the Chinese government who reneged on the deal to withdraw all ships on both sides from the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

US assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell brokered the agreement with China but Beijing did not hold up its side of the agreement. 

"We can't be sure. We have no guarantees but with the situation as it was, I said that we practically have no choice but to try this just to ease the tension and to avoid a possible violent clash in Scarborough Shoal," Cuisia said.

"They did agree. We would not have proceeded if they didn't agree. So, clearly China breached the agreement."

Scarborough, called by Filipinos as Panatag Shoal and by the Chinese as Huangyan Island, was the site of a 2012 standoff between the Philippines and China.

The standoff erupted when Manila sent its biggest warship to chase off Chinese poachers. It prompted the Philippine government to drag Beijing to an international tribunal to invalidate the Asian power’s expansive claims to the sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines but Beijing has refused to honor its decision.

China has since built artificial islands in the Scarborough Shoal, located only 124 nautical miles off Zambales and is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

In the interview, Cuisia slammed Duterte's subservient attitude to China.

"Let's look then in the past 5 years of the Duterte [administration], have we gained anything by taking such a subservient attitude to China?" he said.

"They promised us huge investments, huge loans, what have we gotten so far? I think the record showed we hardly got what they pledged."

"In the meantime, how much have we lost? Look at all the damage China has done in terms of reclaiming those islands, building military facilities, all the fish they have gotten from our territorial waters? Billions and billions of dollars," he added.

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