Del Rosario: Yasay ‘should have stood strongly’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Del Rosario: Yasay ‘should have stood strongly’
Former ambassador Jose Cuisia also says after the ASEAN meeting, 'It seems that our interest is not really being very strongly protected'

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said his successor, Perfecto Yasay Jr, should have asserted the Philippines’ legal victory at The Hague during the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Laos. 

Yasay recently flip-flopped on pushing to include the Hague ruling in the joint communiqué after the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.  

While claiming in Manila that he “vigorously” lobbied to cite the ruling, he said earlier in Laos that he “never did.” An audio recording confirmed what he said in Laos.

Referring to Yasay, Del Rosario told reporters on Friday, July 29, “Ideally, he should have stood strongly for promoting the arbitration ruling as being part of the final statement.”

Del Rosario is known for asserting the Philippines’ claims in regional meetings, to the point of breaking “diplomatic niceties” and engaging in “testy exchanges” in 2013, according to Reuters. (READ: ‘Del Rosario diplomacy’ hailed amid PH victory)

Del Rosario, however, added on Friday that “it’s very difficult to make a comment” unless he is the president, as he doesn’t know the circumstances. 

Del Rosario also commented on the proposal to hold bilateral talks with China. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) under him had said the Philippines wants bilateral talks with China, using a favorable ruling from The Hague as a leverage.

On bilateral talks, Del Rosario said on Friday, “I think the ruling should be a focal point of any discussion.”

On proposals to set the ruling aside, he said, “Well, what will you talk about?”

He added that the Duterte administration can learn from the experience of the previous government.

“My experience before was, a bilateral meeting with China is not very productive. China will stick by the position that they have indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said.

‘Our interest not strongly protected’

In another interview with reporters, former Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr also said Yasay should have urged ASEAN to welcome the Hague ruling.

Referring to Yasay, Cuisia said: “I think he should have, of course, encouraged the ASEAN countries to come up with a statement, because what are they asking for? To respect international law, to respect a ruling that is recognized by many other major nations – the US, EU, Japan, Australia, and so on.”

“So what is wrong with saying we welcome this decision and we hope that we can work together with ASEAN in trying to get China to come out with a reasonable stance on the South China Sea issues?” Cuisia asked.

He said, “Why can’t ASEAN say that? Is it because we are so afraid to upset China?”

Sought for comment on Yasay’s conflicting remarks in Laos and Manila, Cuisia said, “It seems that our interest is not really being very strongly protected.”

He also commented on proposals to set aside the Hague ruling to give way to the diplomatic process between Manila and Beijing.

“I don’t think it’s the right position,” Cuisia said. “Why did we go through all that trouble? Of what use is the ruling, then? Of course that’s what China wants. Do we have to give everything that China wants?”

Cuisia agreed with the Duterte administration that the Philippines should not “flaunt” the Hague ruling. 

“Of course we should not flaunt it. We should be magnanimous. But at the same time, we should be firm.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.