Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday clarified that his “empty victory” remark does not refer to the efforts made by former foreign affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario and Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling, but the outcome of the case itself.
Del Rosario and Carpio were two important figures who pushed for the filing of the case against China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) row.
Lorenzana said with the realities on the ground, “the victory being claimed is premature and incomplete since the ruling has no enforcement mechanism.”
“How can victory be claimed over an arbitration case that proceeded even if the other party declined to participate, having stated from the beginning that it will not abide by the arbitration’s outcome?” he said in a statement.
“Until we regain complete control of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), and until the PCA ruling is fully enforced, it remains just a piece of paper. It pains me to say this but it is the fact,” he added.
Lorenzana, however, apologized to del Rosario and Carpio, whom he called as “true patriots.”
“They have my highest regard for being true patriots, having spent enormous efforts and time to vigorously and successfully argue our case before the PCA in The Hague,” he said. “Both have reasons to be miffed for they worked hard to win our case before the PCA. It was not my intention to denigrate their achievement.”
The defense chief also pushed for the need for the public to understand that the PCA ruling was about “sovereign rights” and not “sovereignty,” which he said are two different things.
He added that the country did not lose any territory in the West Philippine Sea during the Duterte administration “because the nine islands that were under our control before the Bajo de Masinloc (BDM) standoff are still occupied by Filipinos to this day.”
“What the Chinese actually reclaimed are artificial structures, which did not exist prior to the BDM incident. Furthermore, the PCA ruling declared BDM as a common ground where any country can fish,” he added.
Despite criticisms hurled against the government, President Rodrigo Duterte, he said, has consistently assured the public that he is not setting the arbitral ruling aside.
In his recent State of the Nation ddress, Duterte said the country’s improved relationship with China “does not mean we will waver to defend our interest in the West Philippine Sea.”
“In the meantime, the President is using our renewed warm relations with China to bring benefits to our people,” Lorenzana said. “While the past and present administrations differ in their approaches in pursuing the same national interest, prudence dictates that diplomacy is still the better strategy to advance our country’s interests in the WPS.” PNA