MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte blamed his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, for the artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, claiming he did not act swiftly enough after securing a legal victory over China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
However, the landmark ruling was issued on July 12, 2016 or after Aquino's presidency which ended on June 30, 2016. The ruling was issued on the second week of Duterte's administration.
"Aquino filed an arbitration case, we won, he was still there. Bakit hindi niya ginawa kung 'yan ang gusto ng mga yellow?" said an outraged Duterte on Friday, May 4, referring to Aquino's Liberal Party. (Why didn't he do it if that's what the yellows wanted?)
"Nanalo kayo, nandiyan pa si Aquino. (You won, Aquino was still there.) You had so many months there. Bakit hindi niyo pinuntahan at sinita? (Why didn't you go there and scold them?)," he added.
While it was during Aquino's administration when the Philippines filed a case against China, the decision of the PCA was handed down only in July 2016, or in the second week of the Duterte administration.
The process, from filing the case to the issuance of the ruling, took 3 years. Early on in his presidency, Duterte even thanked Aquino for the ruling, calling it his "ace card."
Duterte's frustration over the situation in the West Philippine Sea comes after reports of new missile deployments by China to the Spratlys, a group of islands being claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam.
Among the affected is Panganiban (Mischief) Reef which, according to the Hague ruling, is undisputed as the Philippines has sovereign rights over it.
Duterte again blamed the United States, aside from the Aquino administration, for not aggressively contesting China's reef-building activities.
"The only country who could have stopped them was America...Pinarking sana niya barko niya at sinita (They could've parked their boats there and scolded them)," said Duterte. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.