Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is hoping that the Duterte administration can be more transparent regarding government moves in dealing with China over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute.
Aquino made the remark on Saturday in reaction to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the Philippines’ renewed affinity with China does not mean it will waive its territorial claims in the WPS.
Noynoy wants transparency in gov’t actions on West PHL Sea dispute
“Pakiusap baka pwedeng ipakita yung mga negosasyon nila, maging mas transparent tayo dito para wala nang agam-agam ang mga kababayan natin,” Aquino told reporters in Quezon City on Saturday.
During his SONA, Duterte said the Philippine government has continued to assert an independent foreign policy.
Likewise, Duterte said that an improved relation with China has led to unprecedented levels of cooperation between the two countries in abating crime.
“Our improved relationship with China does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our territories in the West Philippine Sea,” Duterte said.
On the other hand, Aquino said he learned that Filipino fishermen have already been allowed to catch fish in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
But he said he finds this development uncomfortable as it appears that Filipinos are only given permission to catch fish in an area that is already exclusively theirs.
“Medyo ‘di ako komportable sa sinabing ganung statement. Sayo ito, exclusive economic zone napapahintulutan kang mangisda sa exclusive mo, parang may mali yata sa statement,” he said.
It was during Aquino’s administration that the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea that overlap with Manila’s claims in the WPS.
The UN Permanent Court of Arbitration favored of the Philippines in its ruling in July 2016. But China did not participate in the process and has refused to recognize the arbitral award to Manila.
Aquino said that it is important to know the step-by-step action of the government in the territorial dispute.
“Sabi nila meron na raw nga napag-usapan. Binanggit niya yung Code of Conduct. 2002, sinubukan gunawa ng Code of Conduct ang China at ASEAN, hindi nangyari nagkaroon ng declaration of conduct parang statement of principle,” he said.
“Ang hinahabol mo diyan ay yung binding na rules na lalabas sa Code of Conduct,” he said.
The Duterte administration has consistently received criticism for supposedly failing to take action on the issue of territorial dispute in the the West Philippine Sea.