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‘Profoundly disappointing and extremely irresponsible’ Robredo hits Duterte’s plan to ignore arbitral ruling for PH-China joint exploration

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Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday slammed President Duterte’s recent declaration that he is willing to set aside the arbitral ruling upholding the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea to allow Philippines’ joint oil and gas exploration with China to proceed.

Robredo, in a statement released to media, described the President’s plan as “profoundly disappointing and extremely irresponsible.”

She then pointed out that even the President’s Foreign Affairs Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., said that there is no need to abandon the country’s legal victory in order for joint development between China and the Philippines to move forward.

“Entering into any agreement should not come at the expense of upholding our rights to the West Philippine Sea. Our own Constitution already grants the State ample authority to enter into agreements with foreign entities for exploration and development of oil and gas resources, provided that these shall lead to “real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country.” Why, then, was this reckless pronouncement made?” Robredo said.

The Vice President again hit Duterte’s earlier claim that the Philippines might only provoke a war with China if it would continue to demand accountability from China over its aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

“In attempting to justify this move, the President has once more tried to argue that in the matter of the West Philippine Sea, the only two choices available to us are capitulation or conflict,” she said.

“Again, as a number of respected authorities have done so before, I must point out that THIS IS NOT TRUE. Open warfare is far from the sole means of asserting our rights to our EEZ, as our neighboring nations Vietnam and Indonesia have recently and repeatedly proven,” Robredo added.

The “strongest anchor” to the Philippines’ claim on the West Philippine Sea, according to Robredo, must be the government’s consistency in its official positions, negotiations, and statements from top officials.

“A firm, consistent assertion of our legal rights does not require a single shot being fired, yet why do the President and his administration constantly fail at doing it? Why are the President and his administration the very ones who undermine our decisive victory before the Arbitral Tribunal in 2016 with remarks such as this?” Robredo asked.

Robredo also emphasized that President Duterte’s handling of the West Philippine Sea issue will have implications not only for the remainder of his term, but for all subsequent administrations.

“It will affect the lives not just of our generation of Filipinos, but that of our children, and our children’s children. We must take great care in ensuring that we are not trading away the long-term interests of our nation and our children for short-term profit,” she said.

“Guaranteeing a better future for our children is perhaps one of the most important, and most difficult, responsibilities of any administration. Selling that future for a gas deal with China is a shameful way of abandoning that responsibility,” she added.

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