President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday scored the United States and the Aquino administration for their failure to stop China from militarizing formations in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte went as far as blame his predecessor President Benigno Aquino III's government for not confronting China even after the country secured a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration which invalidated the Asian superpower's excessive claims.
“Aquino filed an arbitration case, we won. He was still there, bakit hindi niya ginawa kung 'yan talaga ang gusto ‘yan silang mga yellows,” Duterte said in a speech in
“Nanalo kayo nandiyan pa si Aquino... Bakit hindi niyo pinuntahan at sinita?” he added.
The ruling by tribunal based in The Hague, however, was handed down on July 12, 2016, days after Duterte already assumed the presidency.
Beijing has since refused to recognize the ruling, which Duterte set aside in order to forge closer ties with China, the world's second largest economy.
Over the recent years, Beijing has taken a more assertive stance in the waters, beefing up its reclamation activities in disputed areas and transformed previously submerged features into artificial islands with multi-level buildings and runways.
On Wednesday, American news network CNBC reported that according to US intelligence assessments, China has installed missiles on the three areas being claimed by the Philippines.
Duterte did not make any reference to China’s missile deployment in his speech but said only the United States, the world’s biggest military power, had the capability to rein in Beijing’s reclamation and construction activities in the disputed features.
“You [US] were already around. I’m sure seven or eight years ago, there were already intelligence reports over flights by so many countries, including ours, that something was afoot there, that they were [China] trying to build ‘yung reclamation,” the President told a gathering of public school teachers and principals.
“At that time, because it’s a violation of the [United Nations Convention On The] Law of the Seas, the only country who could have stopped the Chinese was America.”
The Aquino administration took China to the arbitration court and the Philippines won a favorable ruling that invalidated China's historic claims in the resource-rich waters.
The arbitration tribunal's ruling spelled out the Philippines’ sovereign rights to access offshore oil and gas fields within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. —NB/BAP, GMA News