Ex-DFA chief raises 5 questions on Duterte’s China policy

Carmela Fonbuena
Ex-DFA chief raises 5 questions on Duterte’s China policy
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario says the Philippines should take advantage of its leadership of the ASEAN to make sure that the arbitral ruling is part of the Code of Conduct

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine foreign affairs chielf Albert Del Rosario raised 5 concerns about President Rodrigo Duterte’s strategy to resolve the maritime conflict with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

He argued that the country can best protect its claims by pursuing the implementation of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

Duterte has shelved the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration – which junked China’s sweeping nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea – and opted to resolve the dispute bilaterally with China. He said he wants to focus on economic partnerships with the Asian economic giant instead. 

Del Rosario spoke in a forum on Tuesday, April 25, hosted by his own foreign policy think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

1.    On shelving the ruling, what would happen if we should pass the point of no return?

2.    What if the rules-based system were to collapse in our region?

3.    What if we were to squander the support of the responsible community of nations?

4.    As the island-building is complete, is the arbitration academic if China is able to operationalize its nine-dash line claim?

5.    As America is the promoter of the rule of law, what would happen if our alliance with the United States is weakened, rather than strengthened?

Del Rosario said the Philippines should go back to pursuing the arbitral ruling, because he said it is the best direction that would ensure the country is not shortchanged. He said the Philippines should make sure that the ruling will be a part of the Code of Conduct framework being finalized. 

“Philippine interests are best promoted when all states, of any size or power, adhere to the commonly agreed upon standards that govern countries’ rights and relationships. International law, in my view, is the great equalizer. Through it, a country of 100 million people is the equal of one that is more powerful, and that is more than ten times its size,” Del Rosario said. 

PH should take advantage of ASEAN leadership

Del Rosario said the Philippines should take advantage of its leadership of the ASEAN in making sure that international law – as interpreted in the arbitral ruling – is upheld in the region. 

He noted how the ruling is supported by various countries and international groups including the European Union, the US, ASEAN members, Japan and Australia, among others. 

“As this year’s chair of ASEAN, the Philippines has a unique and an important opportunity to dwell on how we can work with our neighbors to ensure that this rules-based order succeeds. The purpose of our cooperation should go beyond maintaining friendly ties; we must also cooperate to ensure that we live in a neighborhood where countries follow the rules and uphold their commitments,” Del Rosario said.  

“My hope is that our ASEAN neighbors share the pride of what a Member State like ours can accomplish, and see in the ruling an opportunity for all of the Southeast Asian region. Ultimately, advocating a rules-based regime is deeply embedded in who we are and what we must do. In pursuing this path, we can all be confident that we will not be shortchanging the many generations to come,” Del Rosario said. – Rappler.com 

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