Arroyo advises Duterte: Concentrate on economic ties with China

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — Former President, and now Pampanga Representative, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo believes that President Rodrigo Duterte knows what he is doing insofar as China is concerned.

Arroyo, however, did give the President a strategic recommendation – from one President to another.

"With China, let us concentrate on our economic ties and to the extent that we can, transcend the matters at issue between us," she said.

Arroyo said she gave the recommendation to President Duterte during the National Security Meeting in March.

Mrs. Arroyo faced the media on Thursday for the launch of Atty. Estelito Mendoza's primer on the West Philippine Sea.

Mendoza recalled that during the Arroyo admistration, the South China Sea was peaceful and quiet.

He, however, said, "What is catching the attention, not only of the countries bordering the South China Sea, is practically the continuing tension in the South China Sea. The posturing of the naval might of the United States, of China, or other countries. That did not exist during the Arroyo administration. There was relative quiet and peace."

Read: Duterte: Despite sea row, PH 'at best level' of ties with China

He explained, they were able to prove that cooperation amongst China, Philippines, and Vietnam – another claimant in disputed territories in the disputed territories in the South China Sea – is possible.

During the Arroyo administration, Mendoza said a joint seismic survey was undertaken by the three countries in the South China Sea, wherein they agreed that all information that will be gathered would be shared amongst them.

Mendoza said the Philippines even passed a law declaring the country's rights over its 12 nautical mile territorial sea and exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles

"China did not contest our 12-mile territorial sea. China implicitly recognized our 200-mile economic zone," Mendoza said.

Read: PH envoy explains approach to sensitive issues with China

Mendoza, however, questioned why the Aquino administration filed a case before the UN arbitral tribunal.

He believes this case provoked China's building of artificial islands in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

"We were fighting in the Hague. Maybe we were winning in the Hague, but China outflanked us. China made it a point that while we were winning in the Hague, China was winning in the waters of the South China Sea." Mendoza said.

Mendoza believes China's artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea will be the most difficult problem President Duterte has now to face.