Malacañang: Duterte has shown courage defending PH rights in WPS

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MANILA – Malacañang said on Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has shown bravery in upholding the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

After Vice President Leni Robredo urged Duterte administration to be courageous in claiming the country’s landmark arbitral tribunal victory against China, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark.

Hindi ko po alam kung anong gusto niyang tapang ipakita pero nagsalita na po ang Presidente—malinaw, matapang sa (I don’t know what kind of courage she wants, but the President has spoken—clear and courageous before the) UN General Assembly: ‘The arbitral ruling is already part of international law.’ Kung hindi ‘yan matapang, ewan ko po kung ano ang matapang (If that’s not courageous, I don’t know what is),” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

He was referring to how Duterte invoked the arbitral ruling on the WPS during the 75th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September of last year.

Duterte stated in his speech that the arbiral ruling is “now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon”.

Duterte also stated that his administration denies attempts to “undermine” the favorable sea ruling for the Philippines.

Roque confirmed that the Palace was no longer startled by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s response of the Philippines’ July 2016 arbitral award as “a piece of paper”.

He admitted that Duterte himself stated that the arbitral ruling would not resolve the Manila-Beijing sea issue.

However, he said that the President’s firm stance on the arbitral ruling should dispel any questions about his position on the sea controversy.

“Bilang sagot sa sinabi ng spokesperson ng Chinese Ministry on Foreign Affairs, ang tingin po natin ang award ay kabahagi na ng international law (In response to the statement of the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry on Foreign Affairs, we think that the award is part of international law),” Roque said.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, decided in favor of the Philippines’ claim on July 12, 2016, declaring China lacks a legal basis to enforce its claimed historic rights over nearly the entire South China Sea.

However, China remained firm in its decision to reject the finding, calling it “illegal and invalid”.

Meanwhile, Roque disputed accusations that Chinese warships are preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing near the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the WPS.

“Well, ito po ang sinasabi ng mga liderato roon, ito po ang sinasabi noong may-ari ng mga bangka – ‘hindi po sila pinipigilan mangisda sa Scarborough’ dahil iyan po ay kabahagi noong desisyon ng arbitral tribunal (Well, this are what leaders there are saying, this is what owners of boats are saying—they are not being prevented from fishing in the Scarborough because it is part of the decision of the arbitral tribunal),” he said.

In the same briefing, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo stated that his department has yet to receive reports that fishermen are being barred from fishing in the area.

Roque had previously urged fishermen to submit complaints in order to confirm that they are still being harassed by Chinese vessels.

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.