Ex-envoy defends Duterte stance on int’l ruling in South China Sea dispute

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Photo by Deejae S. Dumlao

A FORMER ambassador has slammed critics accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of treason for not asserting an international arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute.

Alberto Encomienda, the country’s former envoy to Greece, Malaysia and Singapore, stressed that there was no “practical road map” to assert the country’s right over the seas.

“Give Duterte a [practical road map] on how he can assert [our victory], and if he does not follow that, I will call him a traitor,” he said in an interview with the Varsitarian following his a lecture last March 7 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.

In July 2016, the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague ruled that the Philippines possessed sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, invalidating China’s claims to areas like Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.

Encomienda, who headed the Maritime and Ocean Affairs Center under the Department of Foreign Affairs during the Arroyo administration, pointed out that the dispute did not involve sovereignty issues, only “sovereign rights.”

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that sovereignty bestows full rights and supreme authority over the territory, while sovereign rights “no longer concern all of [a state’s] activities, but only some of them,” the ex-diplomat said in his lecture.

‘PH used for propaganda’

Encomienda also took a swipe at former president Benigno Aquino III’s administration for convincing people that after the victory of the Philippines in the arbitration court, neighboring countries would follow suit in filing cases against China.

“We are now on the eighth month since the release of the tribunal ruling and no one has followed suit,” he said.

For Encomienda, the Aquino administration allowed the United States to use the country for its own interest in a power play with China.

“We are in a bad situation because the national psyche has been poisoned during the Aquino administration, demonizing China and making it appear that our only salvation is the Mutual Defense Treaty of the United States,” he said.

The Mutual Defense Treaty is a 1956 agreement between the Philippines and the United States wherein both countries will support each other if one party is attacked by an external force.

The country needs to manage its foreign policy better to prevent outside forces from interfering with our foreign relations, he said.

“You have to start from the top to the bottom. If the top is polluted, what do you think will come down?” he said.

The forum, titled “Demokratikong Relasyon ng Tsina at Pilipinas sa Ilalim ng Administrasyong Duterte,” was organized by the Asian Studies Society and UST Scarlet-AB.

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