Roque: Aquino admin, US govt failed to protect PH resources from China's aggression

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — The United States government and the Aquino administration had failed to do their part in protecting Philippine resources which were damaged in the middle of a maritime disputes with China, according to Malacañang.

In his briefing in Davao City on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said despite the Mutual Defense Treaty in place, the US government did nothing when the Philippines lost Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal to China, until Beijing started to build artificial islands over areas within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

"Bagama't enforced po ang Mutual Defense Treaty, nawala po sa atin ang Mischief Shoal, wala pong nangyari. Pagkatapos po nawala ang Panatag, wala rin pong nangayri. Tapos gumawa rin ng artifical na isla ang mga Tsino sa lugar na kabahagi ng ating exclusive economic zone, wala rin namang ginawa ang mga Amerikano," he said.

[Translation: Even when the Mutual Defense Treaty was enforced, we lost the Mischief Shoal and nothing happened. After that, we lost Panatag, nothing also happened. And then the Chinese built artificial islands in areas which are part of our exclusive economic zone, the Americans also did nothing.]

Mischief Reef, or Panganiban Reef to Filipinos, is located west of Palawan. In 1995, China built an outpost on stilts on the reef and insisted that the territory belonged to them. Meanwhile, the Philippines lost Panatag or the Scarborough Shoal west of Zambales following a controversial standoff with China in 2012.

Under the Philippines' Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, the two countries must provide mutual military support in case their metropolitan areas or territories in the Pacific are attacked by a foreign force. This treaty is further strengthened by the Visiting Forces Agreement, a 1998 deal established to provide simplified procedures for American military personnel in the country.

Roque noted: "Panahon na para pag-isipan kung meron ba tayong nahihita diyan sa Mutual Defense Treaty dahil at least tatlong beses nang nagkaroon na ng dahilan para sila (America) ay tulungan tayo, hindi naman nila tayo natulungan."

[Translation: It is about time to reflect whether we are really gaining something from the Mutual Defense Treaty because they've had at least three reasons to protect us but they did not come to our aid.]

Later in the briefing, Roque was asked if President Rodrigo Duterte will also seek China's compensation for damage to natural resources and other losses that the Philippines incurred during maritime disputes. However, he only went on to blame the administration of former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III for his supposed "failure" to make China accountable.

"Ang mga ginawa ng Tsina ay nangyari po lahat iyan sa administrasyon ng panahon ni Pangulong Aquino at kung may dapat pananagutan, sana talagang gumawa na po ng hakbang ang gobyerno ni Presidente Aquino noong sila ay nakaupo pa para magkaroon ng katarungan ang ating bayan," he reasoned.

[Translation: Everything that China did happened under the Aquino administration and if someone had to be accountable, President Aquino should have done something while he was in power so he could give justice to our country.]

Roque also reasoned that since Duterte took office, the Philippines had formed a "new level of friendship" with China and such aggressions were stopped.

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said in the same briefing that China "is not targeting the Philippines" under the newly implemented Coast Guard Law, a measure which authorizes its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels entering contested waters.

"The Chinese have reassured us through their Foreign Affairs spokesman, as well as the Chinese Embassy that they are not targeting the Philippines or any specific country and they will not resort to force in the first instance," he said.

RELATED: China says new Coast Guard law not a threat of war 

In a speech last week, Duterte stressed that he can't badmouth China amid controversial issues, including the Philippines' sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, because the country cannot afford to go to war against Beijing. He also asked the US to "pay up" if it wants to keep the VFA in place — a move which Malacañang claimed would only ensure that the country is getting a fair share of the agreement, especially amid the pandemic.