By Roy Mabasa
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Friday said the Philippines should protest China’s violations in the South China Sea (SCS) or the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to preserve the “hard-earned gains” of the Filipino people obtained from the decision by the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague.
“The Philippines should seek a resolution from the UN General Assembly to ask China to abide by the arbitral ruling. We can pursue multilateral cooperation and support through ASEAN, EAS (East Asia Summit), ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) while at the same time utilizing bilateral engagements,” Del Rosario said in his speech at the “Pilipinas Conference 2018” where he outlined the future challenges of the country’s foreign policy.
He noted that the many “unlawful acts of aggression” committed by China in the South China Sea include illegal reclamation, degrading of marine environment, interference of petroleum activities of Philippine commercial vessels within Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), interference of Filipino fishermen within Philippine EEZ, militarization of artificial islands, violating agreements on marine safety, and directly confronting President Duterte with the threat of war.
Del Rosario pointed out that the arbitral tribunal’s decision, which was handed down on July 12, 2016, is not only of great significance to the Philippines, but it also defends the applicability and stability of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
As it is now an integral part of international law, the tribunal’s decision, according to the former secretary, “remains as the great equalizer among states” and is fully consistent with international law and the UNCLOS.
“Our legal position was found to be sound and the international arbitration tribunal ruled against Beijing’s so-called Nine-Dash Line, which by claiming virtually the whole South China Sea, was the principal source of this dispute,” said Del Rosario who now chairs the think-tank ADRI-Stratcom.
Del Rosario also saw the need for the government to listen to the people, citing a recent Social Weather Station survey that nearly 9 out 10 Filipinos are asking for the government to assert the tribunal outcome.
“The voice of the Filipino people is becoming stronger and clearer. The government needs to listen to our people. China needs to hear from our people. The community of nations needs to hear the Filipino speaking with one voice. At day’s end, we need to adhere to the rule of law and stand for what is right,” he said.
Del Rosario, who also served as ambassador to the United States, was the foreign affairs secretary when the Philippines filed its arbitration case before the arbitral tribunal in January 2013.