By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
On the second year of the Philippines’ victory in The Hague, Malacañang reassured the public that the government will continue to assert the country’s rights over the disputed portions of the South China Sea.
July 12 marks the second anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling favoring the Philippines in its arbitration case against China over the South China Sea. The arbitral tribunal also ruled that China has no historic rights on the disputed waters based on its nine-dash line.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in his Thursday press briefing that the government will not give up the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is the second anniversary of our win in the arbitration before the Permanent Court of Arbitration and we assure the public that on the second year of the anniversary, we will continue to assert what is ours while we move on with our bilateral relations with China,” he said.
President Duterte has repeatedly assured the public that despite his policy to establish better relations with China, he will raise the arbitral ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping within his term. He also said that the Philippines has filed several protests against China due to their actions on the disputed waters.
Meanwhile, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said there are groups planning to file a case before the Supreme Court to compel the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to reveal to the public the diplomatic actions the government has taken against China’s militarization.
According to Roque, the public is free to file the said case on the Court and the government will be ready to answer.
“It’s a free country. They can file it and we will meet them in court. I do not know what else they want but in my briefings I go into some detail on what we have done,” he said during his press briefing.
Roque said that as far as protests are concerned, the government has been raising South China Sea issues with China in the bilateral mechanism between the two countries.
He added that the government has also filed protests directly with the Chinese embassy upon expressed direction by the President.
“So we have said all these. We are not hiding what we’ve been doing to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea,” Roque said.
“He should file impeachment if he wants. He’s welcome, it’s a free country,” he added.
In a forum held yesterday to mark the second anniversary of the precedent-setting decision of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague on July 12, 2016, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said 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 China.
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.
The former DFA secretary served under the Aquino administration.
“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.
In the same forum, Vice President Leni Robredo spoke on the theme, “The Path to Global Peace.”
“Our hard-won victory was a victory of the rule of law and the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) framework, and provides the foundation for all future engagements in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.
Robredo was one of the key speakers at the forum. Also present was Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.
Robredo, who had previously urged the Duterte administration to file a diplomatic protest against China, highlighted the need for multilateral collaboration to establish a rules-based international system that will resolve the regional conflict in the disputed area.
The Vice President said it is time for the Philippines to “peacefully protest” against China for its continued military build-up in the West Philippine Sea.
Meanwhile, Roque said that the “Province of China” tarpaulins put up in different parts of Metro Manila is a mere gimmick done by enemies of the government.
Roque made the statement after tarpaulins carrying the sentence “Welcome to Philippines, Province of China” were seen posted in different parts of the region yesterday.
“It’s absurd and I’m sure it’s the enemies of the government behind it. So, to them: try again. You need a better gimmick than that,” he said.
The Palace official also said that there’s no truth to the message that the tarpaulins are trying to convey. (With reports from Roy Mabasa and Raymund F. Antonio)
Tags: China, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Harry Roque, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Philippines, President Duterte, South China Sea, sovereign rights, the government, the Philippines