Duterte's 'submissive' West Philippine Sea policy a problem for next leaders: ex-SolGen

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2019 05:34 PM

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MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's "submissive policy" in the West Philippine Sea will be a problem for the Philippines' future leaders, a former solicitor general warned Friday.

Duterte's decision to enter into joint developments with China and his refusal to enforce the Philippines' fisheries code "are dangerous policies that will be carried over to succeeding generations," former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay told ANC's Dateline Philippines.

"The Duterte administration has decided to adopt a very submissive policy that might result into the waiver of the decision entirely," said Hilbay, who was among the lawyers who argued the Philippines' arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

"If we continue with the current policies of the Duterte administration, by the end of his administration, everybody is going to say that we have already waived our rights in the West Philippine Sea," he said.

Duterte refused to flaunt an arbitral ruling that invalidated China's sweeping claim in the West Philippine Sea as he sought loans and closer ties with Asia's largest economy.

Since Duterte rose to power in 2016, China has continued to build artificial islands in areas that were part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Duterte recently bared a verbal fishing agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping and described Manila's favorable arbitration ruling as a mere "paper victory."

But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte's close ties with Beijing paved way for Filipino fishermen to be allowed to sail back to traditional fishing ground Scarborough Shoal.

"We have been using diplomatic relations, negotiations," Panelo said.

"Our fishermen could not fish in the Scarborough Shoal but that has been eliminated. Our fishermen can go there and fish," he said.

Hilbay noted that aside from the verbal agreement not being ratified by the Philippine Senate, fishing arrangements in the Scarborough Shoal are controlled by Beijing, not Manila.

"There is a difference between being an ally and being a subordinate," Hilbay said.

"There is a difference between being able to enforce your right and being permitted to exercise your right," he added, during a face-off with Panelo on ANC's Dateline Philippines.

Duterte earlier said enforcing the Hague ruling would only lead to the slaughter of Filipinos as Manila could not afford to wage war against the bigger and richer Beijing.

Hilbay dismissed China's alleged threat of war, saying Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia - which also have claims in the West Philippine Sea - have been asserting their rights in the disputed area without having to go to war.