Former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario refuted President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated claim that asserting the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea would lead to war with China, pointing to the President’s move to raise the Hague Ruling at the United Nations as evidence.
Del Rosario made the statement on Tuesday, April 20, after Duterte repeated in a public address on Monday night, April 19, his old arguments against provoking China.
“As we have said before, neither war nor bloodshed is an option for the Philippines to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea…. The President has already invoked the Arbitral Ruling that we won in The Hague at the 75th UNGA and the 37th ASEAN Summit last year. We do not see a war being waged by China against us,” Del Rosario said.
He continued: “This should have put to rest the utterly inane notion that invoking the Arbitral Ruling and standing up for our rights are equivalent to waging war against China.”
Along with Del Rosario, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, maritime experts, and members of the academe had already debunked Duterte’s argument that asserting Philippine sovereignty would spark war with China.
“We respectfully urge the President to reject this Chinese narrative of war, because it is intended to scare countries to submit to China’s will of illegally occupying the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said.
What Duterte can do
During his televised address, Duterte had also claimed there was nothing the Philippines could do to address the incursion of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.
Speaking to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Chief Executive even asked if he or a team could go to the Spratly Islands “just to show the Filipino that no matter how many times we go back there, nothing will happen because we are not in possession of the sea, it’s with them.” Lorenzana pointed out there were no obstacles to Philippine fishing boats and Navy ships in going to the Spratlys.
On Tuesday, Del Rosario reminded the President that since the Philippines, through the Department fo Foreign Affairs and Department of National Defense asserted its rights against China in Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippines Sea, other countries have backed the Philippines’ position.
“Our allies in the world like the US and Japan supported our position against the massing of Chinese vessels. Moreover, the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia have already formally supported the Arbitral Ruling,” he said.
The former foreign secretary likewise said there were still options the country could take to continue asserting its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. These options included raising the 2016 Hague Ruling at the United Nations General Assembly again in September 2021 and resuming joint patrols in the waterway.
In a separate statement, Carpio backed this, saying the UN could order China to surrender its claims in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that belongs to Filipinos. He pointed to the example of Nicaragua which sought a UN resolution in 1987 urging the US to comply with International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, and a 2019 resolution ordering the United Kingdom to return the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius, following an opinion of the ICJ.
“Getting a UN resolution in your country’s favor is already a huge victory because that means the world community is behind your country….. This is how a country defends its national interest. A country cannot just fold up and give up just because the other side is stubborn. That is a childish mentality,” Carpio said.
Del Rosario urged Duterte to “follow the recent initiative of the WPS National Task Force, DND Secretary Lorenzana, DFA Secretary Locsin and some of our patriotic soldiers in asserting our country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.”
He added, “In the face of continuing aggression by China, we would like to see a stronger and more strategic leadership in our President, as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, to stand up for what is ours.” – Rappler.com