PAMPANGA Rep. Gloria Arroyo is not in favor of joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) islands with China or other claimant countries.
The former president made the statement during the launch of the book of her lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, titled “The Ocean Space or The Maritime Area of the Philippines.”
“I don’t know all the facts that are available to the current administration so I will not dare to make any recommendation. I keep that attitude because of my experience as president. There were so many people in the peanut gallery telling me what to do when they don’t have all the facts at their disposal,” Arroyo told reporters.
The Arroyo administration inked a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and Vietnam in 2005—a pact that covered islands located 142,886 square kilometers west of Palawan, or within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The legality of the JMSU pact, which lapsed in 2008, was questioned before the Supreme Court.
“As far as I am concerned, President Duterte knows what he is doing and I have no recommendation to make. I only have general recommendation which I have already said during the National Security Council meeting: We should emphasize our economic relations with China,” Arroyo pointed out.
The former president clarified that the JMSU did not compromise any country’s claims over the South China Sea, as the deal involved only research.
“In the language of the JMSU agreement, it does not prejudice or affect the respective positions of various countries on issues related to the area because it is only a research survey,” Arroyo added.
In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines over China, declaring illegal Beijing’s “nine-dash-line” claim on almost the entire South China Sea.
The tribunal outlawed China’s aggression against Filipino fishermen and reclamation projects, declaring that Filipino fishermen enjoy fishing rights at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and that the Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands, as well as the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank, are all within the EEZ of the Philippines.
For Mendoza, the previous administration’s move before the arbitration court agitated China, prompting Beijing to step up reclamation activities in the islands within the Philippines’ 200-mile EEZ.
“We were winning in The Hague but China has outflagged us on the ground. We are winning in The Hague but China is winning in the waters. That is the most difficult problem that President Duterte has to face,” Mendoza said.
“Under the JMSU, the information would be shared among the three countries. There are questions on constitutionality, but it shows cooperation, not necessarily war, in the South China Sea, is the best solution,” Mendoza added.