The Camp of Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo strikes back at her successor Noynoy Aquino’s administration, holding it accountable for instability over the West Philippine Sea and China’s island building spree in disputed waters.
Arroyo and her legal counsel Estelito Mendoza and former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita appeared in a press conference to launch Mendoza’s primer on the laws of the sea titled, ” The Ocean Space or Maritime Area of the Philippines.”
in his remarks, Mendoza, who was Justice Secretary and Solicitor general to Ferdinand Marcos and Arroyo’s lawyer in the plunder case she just won at the Supreme Court, maintained that it was the Aquino administration’s arbitral case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration that triggered China’s island building spree in the disputed waters.
“as i said i do not know the reason that claim was filed so i cannot say it is right or it is wrong what i can only say is that as far as china is concerned it says it provoked their island building factory perhaps i can add that the claim was directed at china’s 9 dash line but before that i do not remember china having claimed any right of navigation or interfered twith the right of navigation of any country on the basis of the 9 dash line incidentally the arbitral tribunal made no ruling whether the 9 dash line is valid or not what i ruled is that by virtue of the 9 dash line it does not establish right of china over any territory.”
Mendoza added, “even if they have taken over the islands they were not used as fortresses or fortified for any armed action or naval activity.”
Arroyo emphasized that those structures were built during the term of her successor. “during the previous administration built during the previous administration. “
Mendoza also said, “it was well to me upto now a source of inquiry why we filed the arbitral claim as it turns out that is turned to be a very signficant event to china because china now now has stated categorically and explitly that its island building factory incidentally from shoals in the KIGI was provoked by the arbitral claim of the of the Philippines”
Mendoza added, “during the Aquino administration so in effect we were fighting in the Hague maybe we were winning in the Hague but china outflamked us and china made it a point that while we were winning in the Hague China was winning in the waters of the SCS that is now going to be the most dififcult problem of President duterte thse islands China built during the Aquino Administration beyodn that during the arroyo administration there was not just peace and quiet there was a cooperative effort not only among PHL and CHN but including Vietnam you probably ha ve not noted that among the claimants in the SCS is Vietnam many of those features in the KG are occupied not just by china but vietnam”
on the flipside, Mendoza also credited the Arroyo administration for passing republic Act 9522 which defined the country’s baselines which then facilitated the country’s maritime claims.
Mendoza recalled that based on the law of the sea upheld the archipelagic principle which recognized the waters of the archipelago. “without the arhcipelagic princple each island will be an island by itself so there will be high seas between and among the islands that means our country will not have a unfiied and integral geographic situation finally we were able to achieve that in the law of the sea convention but even after achieveing that principle obtained its recognition as part of the principles in the law of the sea convention that would be meaningless unless baselines o are drawn around the archipelago “
Mendoza explained that baselines are the lines around an island or a continent in this case around the archipelago from which you meausre the breath of the territorial sea the continuous zone the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf incidentally these are the maritime areas over which a country has sovereigntly and jurisidiction.
Mendoza added that without the baselines the country cannot claim sovereignty or jurisdiction over these maritime areas, ” so that all improtant achievement was achieved during the arroyo administration you must remember the law of the sea convention was approved in the 1980s 1980s to 2015 nearly 30 years our country praytcically stood still theoretically we couldnt claim sovereignty over these areas because there were no recognzied baselines that was only achieved under the arroyo administration by the enactment of repubnlic act number 9522 that as i said is the primary ahcivement during the arroyo administration that should have been achieved the law of the sea convention was approved during the time of president marcos since then how many rpesidents have we had president corazon aquino president ramos president estrada until finally president arroyo the situation was at a standstill till the enactment of RA 9522 but the achievement of the arroyo administration in the law of the sea goes far beyond that.”
Likewse Mendoza pointed out that during the Arroyo administration, there was no tension with China over the maritime disputes.”now what is catching the attention not only of the countries bordering the SCS is the practically continuing tension in the SCS the posturing of the naval might of the US, of china and other countries that did not exist during the arroyo administration there was relative quiet and peace now you usually read about what is referred to as china’s usland building factory that refers to the reclamation”
Mendoza added, “as i was empahsizing during the arroyo administration there was relative quiet and peace after the enactment of RA 9522 as i said that meant declaration of a 12 mile territorial sea an exclusive economic zone of 200 miles china did not file a protest.. that is very important china did not contest our baselines implicitly china did not contest our 12 mile territorial sea china implcitly reocgnzied our 200 mile economic zone but it protested our claim over the Kalayaan Group of islands and the Bajo de Masinloc where scarborough shoal those were the only particular items contested by china so “
Arroyo added, “tatang can i, i feel like a professor cause these are baselines china did not portest our drawing the baselines but aside from the baselines in another section of the law we passsed you find a regime of islands the regime of islands covered the kalayaan group of islands and the bajo de masinloc so china did not protest this did not protest this it protested this portion because its together its a regime of islands thats what china protested and also protested the bajo de masinloc outside the 200 mile “
Both Mendoza and Arroyo maintained that the Arroyo Administration’s Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China and Vietnam showed that there can be cooperation between China and the Philippines.
Mendoza said, “there was during that time a joint seismic survey which was a joint effort of the PHL, CHN and Vietnam that meant the cost of the survey was borne by the 3 countries with the understandning that the results oir information that will be gathered will be shared between the 3 countries course there were questions of cosntituionality but the point is that shows cooperation not necessarilty in the SCS is a possibility and perhaps the solution “
Arroyo added, “atty mendoza has ended his statement we were talking about the constitutional issue son the joint seismic research and in the briefing yesterday Sec ermita NSC and NAMRIA clarified that in the language in tthe text of the joint seismic agreement said that is without prejudice because it is a research survey because it is a survey it does not affect the respective positions of the various countries on issues related to the area”
It was Aquino that sent Arroyo to jail over corruption allegations arising from her 9 year presidency.