West Philippine Sea

Filipinos must defend West Philippine Sea despite Duterte – Del Rosario

Sofia Tomacruz
Filipinos must defend West Philippine Sea despite Duterte – Del Rosario

People gather in Plaza Rajah Sulayman in Manila to show support to Filipino fishermen who were hit and left in distress by a Chinese vessel in West Philippine Sea and condemn the China claims on the country's territories on June 22, 2019. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

Inoue jaena

'We must not be willing victims by acquiescing to China’s blatant violation of the Rule of Law,' says former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario

After President Rodrigo Duterte once again brushed aside efforts to assert the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea, former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario said it was now up to Filipinos to defend their sovereign rights. 

Del Rosario made the statement after Duterte said in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) that while the government would protect the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea, he “cannot do anything” to regain maritime features occupied by China. 

For Del Rosario, Duterte’s remarks in his penultimate SONA showed that even though the President takes a defeatist stance, Filipinos must not be “willing victims” to Beijing’s “blatant violation of the Rule of Law.”

“It therefore falls on us citizens and our patriotic officials in government to protect our nation’s patrimony for the benefit of our forefathers who defended it; and for benefit of future generations of Filipinos,” Del Rosario said in a statement on Tuesday, July 28. 

“Despite our President’s admission that he ‘cannot do anything’ to protect the West Philippine Sea, we Filipinos should continue to stand for what is right and to defend what is rightfully and legitimately ours under the Rule of Law,” he added. 

Duterte’s latest remarks on the West Philippine Sea followed months of China’s aggressive behavior which persisted in the waterway despite the pandemic. While the country’s diplomats have recently issued some of its strongest statements against China’s actions, the Chief Executive continued to downplay the sea dispute and prioritized warm ties with Beijing. 

Despite this, Del Rosario said Filipinos must stand up to a “bully like China.” 

“We must not be willing victims by acquiescing to China’s blatant violation of the Rule of Law. We must not be silent as silence encourages further aggression into our lands and seas,” he said. 

Meanwhile, recent surveys from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed almost all Filipinos wanted the government to assert the country’s rights in Philippine waters and regain China-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea. 

SWS President Mahar Mangahas earlier noted the issue was among the few areas where Filipinos showed strong sentiments against the Duterte administration. 

Del Rosario called on government officials to likewise help protect what belonged to Filipinos. 

“As we ordinary citizens continue to protect what is ours, we humbly beseech our government to help us in this endeavor. At the very least, our government should not stand in the way of Filipinos legitimately protecting their own lands and waters,” he said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.