MANILA — Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday took a swipe at her successor Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, whose presidency she called "just an interruption"in the "good relationship" between the Philippines and China.
"We have had successive presidents who have built upon the positive relations between China and the Philippines. That period, 2010 to 2016, was just an interruption from 1978 up to today. Thus we have good momentum," Arroyo said in a virtual forum organized by the Association for Philippines-China Understanding Inc. (APCU), to which she is a chairman emeritus.
It was under the Aquino administration when the Philippines sought to rally international support through its arbitration case in the Hague-based, United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal, framing it in the context of respecting the rule of law.
The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration came out in July 2016 in which it recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone in the resource-rich South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
Under Duterte, however, the government departed from this track and instead engaged China bilaterally.
But Arroyo invoked the words of former President Cory Aquino, Noynoy's mother, in explaining why she cultivated good relations with China during her presidency.
"My own reasons... were very well expressed by President Cory's statement in 1988 prior to her trip to China. At that time, she said, given its size and power, its destiny as the pivot of the most important developments in Asia, its racial affinity to the Filipino nation and its territorial proximity to us, this visit to China explains and justifies itself," Arroyo said.
Arroyo said the the 2 countries should maintain their friendship despite differences.
"Our national interest will never be 100 percent congruent with that of China. But that’s just the way it is in global politics. However there is much more that binds us to China as friends," she said.
China continues to disregard the UN-backed arbitral court's ruling that nullified its historical claims in the South China Sea, reprimanded it for the marine environmental damage caused by its artificial island-building activities on disputed features there, and declared the Scarborough Shoal to be open for fishermen of any nationality who traditionally harvest there.
—Reports from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News