MANILA - International law expert Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque on Thursday stressed that the Philippines now has to negotiate with China for a permanent solution to the sea dispute.
"We have no other logical step other than to go back to the negotiating table. Despite the victory, yung hidwaan sa West Philippine Sea will continue," said Roque.
Roque made the comment after President Rodrigo Duterte convened the National Security Council (NSC) in Malacañang to discuss the favorable judgment the Philippines got from the Permanent Court of Arbitration concerning the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
"The ruling has absolutely no bearing on the conflicting claims to land territory. Kinakailangan pagusapan yung pinagaagawang isla," he said.
"Wala tayong choice. May clarifications na binigay ang ruling na yan. Malinaw na ano pwede uunahin pagusapan. Scarborough Shoal, ang sabi ng tribunal, parehong may karapatan mangisda ang mga Pilipino at mga Chinese. Pagusapan na paano mangingisda pare-pareho. Yung low-tide elevations ay kaparte ng EEZ (exclusive economic zone). Kung gusto niyo talaga gamitin yan, ano ba, magkano ba ibabayad niyo sa amin?"
According to Roque, joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea is not unconstitutional.
"Meron akong isang punto that I disagree with kay [Supreme Court] Justice [Antonio] Carpio. Sabi niya kapag EEZ, unconstitutional ang joint development. I do not subscribe to joint development, but as an issue of law, I disagree. Bakit? You are unduly restraining the hands of our negotiator kung sasabihin mo unconstitutional yan when, in fact, it is not," he explained.
He, however, said he is not pushing for joint exploration. "Ang sa akin, walang isang solution yan eh... Pero I don't want to tie the hands of our negotiators in reality. Definitely, it will have to comply with the Philippine Constitution."
Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the Philippines now has "a stronger hand" at negotiating and the government should take advantage of that.
"Yung confrontational is out of the question. Negotiation should be the only way," Atienza said.
Both Roque and Atienza belong to the minority group in the House of Representatives.