MANILA – Now that he has retired from the Supreme Court, former Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza on Saturday said he is willing to help the Duterte government on the West Philippine Sea issue.
Jardeleza led the Philippine legal team that won the arbitral ruling against China during his time as solicitor general in 2014.
Beijing, however, refuses to recognize the July 2016 ruling that invalidated its economic claim to around 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea.
“If somebody asks (for my help), I will be around. As a good citizen, if we are asked by the government to help, we can give our view,” the 70-year-old told reporters in a forum in Quezon City.
He surmised though that the dispute will not be resolved under President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, especially that the tribunal’s decision cannot be enforced.
Ties between Manila and Beijing have substantially warmed under the leadership of Duterte who refused to assert Manila’s claims in the contested waters in exchange for investment opportunities with Asia’s largest economy.
“Right from the start, we knew that if we get a favorable decision, that cannot be enforced but I thought that it was the correct decision because the decision clarified a lot about what a country can do about maritime entitlements. Even if China does not recognize it, mas mabuti na ‘to na may decision tayo that clarifies something,” he said.
Jardeleza added: “The fact that you cannot enforce, meaning you cannot just tell China to get out, doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. This is gonna be a long problem but the building block, the building stone is there, which is the decision.”
The former Associate Justice said Duterte’s strategy to engage China bilaterally and tone down rhetorics have benefits.
“Even as China says ‘We don’t recognize it,’ of course, deep down, they know there is a decision. And so, without necessarily flaunting it, you can engage them because we are neighbors, and so negotiate so that they will, over time, respect our fishing rights,” he said.
Jardeleza, West Philippine Sea, South China Sea, territorial dispute, arbitral ruling, China