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Former DFA Secretary: ‘Our common goal is peace without sacrificing our sovereignty’

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By Roy Mabasa

For former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, the Philippines would need all its friends in the community of nations to help it in promoting the rule of law in the South China Sea against what he described as “a bully, a grand larcenist and an international outlaw” that is China.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)

Speaking at a forum marking the second anniversary of the precedent-setting decision of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague on July 12, 2016, Del Rosario said the path to gaining support of the responsible members of the international community can be achieved either through multilateralism with the United Nations, with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), through bilateral engagements with other states, or an all-out effort pursuing all of those actions.

“For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, this is the path we must take”, Del Rosario said in his welcome remarks at the ADR Institute-sponsored forum in Makati City on Thursday.

The former DFA secretary who served under the Aquino administration reiterated his position that coercive diplomacy has no place in a rules-based international order.

“Our common goal is peace and prosperity without sacrificing our sovereignty and our sovereign rights. How we choose to assert our rights and dignity as a nation today will be the legacy the next generations of our country will have to live with,” he said.

CONTINOUS UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES

Del Rosario accused China of continuing its unlawful activities such as preventing Filipino fishermen from pursuing their livelihood in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), blocking the Philippines from developing its own natural resources, destroying elements of the marine environment, erecting military facilities, and directly confronting President Rodrigo Duterte with the threat of war.

According to Del Rosario, the landmark international decision that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim should encourage Filipinos to stand with even greater confidence in a principled position on the West Philippine Sea.

Del Rosario, who also served as Philippine ambassador to the United States, believes it may not be necessary “to shrink to China’s threats of war” since its economy is heavily reliant on global trade which needs open shipping lanes.

“To the deep dismay of our people, however, our government has persisted in allowing China to deprive our citizens of what is ours by continuing to shelve the tribunal outcome. We are still succumbing to threats of force including a threat of war,” the former secretary added.

REPUTATIONAL COSTS

Del Rosario did not mince words in calling out China a bully for using its “muscle” to deprive others of their rights; a grand larcenist for unlawfully taking the significant property of others; and an international outlaw for refusing to abide with international law.

On the other hand, he said the Philippines is a “willing victim” for acquiescing to the abuses being committed against it, and an “abettor” for defending the aggressor China at every opportunity.

He lamented how the Philippines failed to utilize the last two years to its advantage by developing and obtaining the support of many countries whose principles are aligned with the country.

“Sadly, however, this was not made to happen,” he said.

MOVING FORWARD

“Where do we go from here? What should we now do as a willing victim and an abettor that has fully embraced our big northern neighbor who is clearly acting as a bully, a grand larcenist, and an international outlaw,” Del Rosario asked.

To further pursue the country’s interest, the former DFA chief urged the Filipino people to voice their sentiments to the government and exercise their right to raise their indignation against China.

“We need all of our friends in the community of nations who believe in the rule of law to help us. But before we can hope for help, we must first demonstrate that we are worth helping,” he said.

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