President Rodrigo Duterte (MNS photo)

MANILA, May 15 (Mabuhay) — Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday disputed President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that he ordered the withdrawal of Philippine ships amid a standoff with Chinese boats in the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

Duterte has blamed the previous administration for the loss of the shoal, which is under Chinese control even if it is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We withdrew because Albert called maybe the ships, [and] ordered it to withdraw. The mystery question here is: Was it approved by President [Benigno III] Aquino?” Duterte said in his address to the nation on May 5.

However, del Rosario said the foreign secretary is not part of the chain of command in the military or coast guard.

“This is a basic principle that any good soldier or naval officer knows. Under the law, the mandate of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs is in the conduct of diplomacy and foreign relations,” he said.

“Thus, in the 2012 Scarborough Standoff, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs has no authority to order the withdrawal of ships from Scarborough Shoal.”

Del Rosario insisted that the country lost control over the shoal after China reneged on a United States-brokered agreement for both Manila and Beijing to simultaneously withdraw its vessels from the area to end the standoff.

“Due to China’s duplicity, China remains the illegal occupant of Scarborough Shoal—a continuing and open violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines,” he said.

Del Rosario said the remaining months of the Duterte administration should “not be wasted on blaming Filipinos” regarding the 2012 incident.

“Instead, the remaining months of President Duterte’s term should be spent on what our Constitution mandates: the enforcement of the arbitral award and protection of the West Philippine Sea for the sake of the present and future generations of Filipinos,” he said.

Duterte’s six-year term will end in June 2022. (MNS)

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