Lawmaker to Duterte: Convene LEDAC after PH-China case ruling

MANILA, Philippines – Kabayan Representative Harry Roque advised President Rodrigo Duterte to convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) regardless of the ruling on the Philippines' case against China over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"I call on the President, regardless of the decision, to immediately convene the LEDAC... This is no longer just an issue of foreign affairs. This is an issue that requires legislative action," said Roque on Tuesday, July 12.

The LEDAC is a consultative and advisory body to the President for programs and policies that are essential to the administration's goals for national development. 

Roque made the suggestion a few hours before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands is set to announce its historic ruling on the Philippines-China case at 5 pm. (READ: Ruling on PH-China case: What's at stake

"Manalo, matalo, hindi po matatapos ang hidwaan sa pinag-aagawang isla at karagatan. Bakit? Wala siyang jurisdiction sa isla," said Roque, who previously handled high-profile cases as a lawyer and is also a member of the Center for International Law.

(Win or lose, the conflict over the disputed islands and waters will not end. Why? The arbitral tribunal has no jurisdiction over territorial claims concerning the islands.)

"To manage people's expectation, itanim natin sa ating mga isipin, hindi po mareresolba ng arbitration ang pinag-aagawang Spratlys Group of Islands. If at all, ang mareresolba lang ang Scarborough Shoal," he added.  

(To manage people's expectation, let's put in our minds that the arbitration case will not completely address the dispute over the Spratlys Group of Islands. If at all, only the Scarborough Shoal dispute will be resolved.)

The Philippines brought the case to court to render China's 9-dash line claim over the West Philippine Sea baseless. (READ: CHEAT SHEET: What you need to know about PH-China case)

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a coastal state has the exclusive right to fish within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area 200 nautical miles from the coastal state's baselines or edges.

China's so-called "historical rights" over most parts of the West Philippine Sea overlap with the Philippines' EEZ. 

What is at stake for the Philippines and China in the case is the right to fish, to explore, and to exploit oil and other resources.  

Roque clarified that the tribunal will not decide on issues concerning territorial sovereignty as these are not under the jurisdiction of UNCLOS. The same goes for overlapping sea boundaries. 

This is why the lawmaker wants the Duterte administration to consider resuming talks with China because the dispute will continue even after the ruling on Tuesday afternoon. (READ: Dear Digong: Let’s leverage our West Philippine Sea arbitration case)

"Ang payo dito sa bagong gobyerno ay magpadala kayo ng magaling na ambassador diyan sa United Nations sa New York na makakabuo ng consensus," said Roque.

(My advice to this new government is to send a good ambassador to the United Nations in New York so that he or she can help in reaching a consensus.)

Not just for the executive 

Roque, however, is not in favor of the sharing of resources with China in areas that the Permanent Court of Arbitration may possibly deem as part of the Philippines' EEZ.

"Ngayon po, mahirap sa akin tanggapin na isang exclusive [economic] zone will be subject to joint [exploration and exploitation]," said Roque.

(Right now, it's hard for me to accept that an area deemed as an exclusive economic zone will be subject to joint exploration and exploitation.)

He was reacting to the recent statement of Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr that the country is willing to share resources in the West Philippine Sea. Yasay has since qualified his statement after drawing flak.

According to Roque, this is not a decision for the executive department to make alone.

"The decision on whether or not the sharing of resources for a peaceful solution is not an exclusive decision to be made by the executive. That entails the sharing of national territory. The executive cannot do it alone. Congress must concur either in the form of treaty ratification on the part of the Senate or a law," he said. 

"Trust Congress... that we would take care of the national interest," Roque added. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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