MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. has confirmed Rappler’s report that he called China an “aggressor state” when he delivered a lecture at Harvard University in the US in 2015.
Roque, however, explained he made the remark when China forcibly evicted the Philippines from Scarborough Shoal and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) had yet to decide on the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China.
“At the time, it was important to underscore that a peaceful resolution of the issue must be through the rule of law because we certainly – as is the case until now – no match to China’s military might,” Roque said in a press statement issued Sunday night.
“There is now a fundamental change in circumstances as, today, we have an arbitral decision squarely in our favor saying that China has no basis of historic waters and that the area where China’s artificial islands are built form part of our exclusive economic zone,” he added.
With the ITLOS ruling, Roque said both the Philippines and China can move forward on matters that are not controversial such as trade, investment, and tourism.
“Matters which are controversial such as the issue of ownership over the land territory not subject to the arbitration, we can proceed through bilateral talks,” Roque, an international law expert, said.
Roque said Rappler’s article “therefore was written without consideration of the proper context” by which he described China an aggressor state.
“I do acknowledge that I was one of those that pushed for binding arbitration as in fact, no less than Justice (Antonio) Carpio wanted a different mode of settlement, which was through conciliation,” he said.
Roque, a former congressman representing Kabayan party-list, was appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as Palace spokesperson in October last year. (PNA)
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