Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — Former President Benigno Aquino III denied the claim of his successor, Rodrigo Duterte, that his administration has done nothing to resolve the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
“Wala akong ginawa? [I did nothing?] Who filed the arbitration? Who campaigned amongst the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian) countries? Which administration produced the communique and the statements that were critical of all of these building and developing by China?” Aquino said in a press briefing Monday.
Earlier, Duterte said Aquino failed to confront China with the ruling of the Permanent Court of the Arbitration. He also erroneously said the decision was announced during Aquino’s term. The Hague tribunal released its ruling on July 12, 2016 — almost two weeks into the Duterte presidency.
“So Aquino filed an arbitration case. We won. He was still there. Bakit hindi niya ginawa kung ‘yan talaga ang gusto ng ‘yan silang mga yellow. Nanalo kayo. Nandiyan pa si Aquino, not so many months there. Bakit hindi niyo pinuntahan at sinita?” Duterte said.
[Translation: So Aquino filed an arbitration case. We won. He was still there. Why did he not attend to it if the yellows wanted it so much? You won, Aquino was still there. Why did you not head there and call them out?]
Aquino said that in 2012, he reminded his team on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and all ten member states of ASEAN in 2002.
Under Section 5 of the DOC, the ASEAN member states and China agreed to exercise “self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability” including refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands and features.
The former President added the Philippines enjoyed the support of other countries when the case challenging China’s nine-dash claim over the sea was filed during his term in January 2013.