Philippine presidents have come and gone since the maritime dispute over the South China Sea began as far back as the 1970s but it was only under President Benigno Aquino III that the dispute was formally brought to an international court to settle the legal issues.
Aquino has mentioned the dispute twice in his previous State of the Nation Addresses: in 2011 and in 2012 following the Scarborough shoal standoff.
“We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours,” Aquino said in his 2011 SONA.
“We are also studying the possibility of elevating the case on the West Philippine Sea to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), to make certain that all involved nations approach the dispute with calm and forbearance,” he said.
A standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships ensued on April 8, 2012, after several Chinese fishing boats were found illegally poaching in Scarborough shoal, which Manila also calls Bajo de Masinloc and as Panatag Shoal.