In the wake of China firing water cannons at Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, presidential bet Isko Moreno declared he would assert the Hague ruling if he were to emerge victorious in the 2022 elections.
“We will be fearless in insisting [on] the Hague ruling,” he said on Monday, November 22, in a media interview in Manila.
He also promised to stand up for Filipino fishermen, saying the West Philippine Sea issue is as much a food security issue as it is a national security issue.
“If something happens to them under my watch, somebody will pay, definitely – immaterial who they are, immaterial how powerful they are, because if we want to be respected, we have to respect also ourselves,” said Moreno.
What does asserting Hague ruling actually mean?
Asserting the Hague ruling typically means the government bringing up the 2016 international court decision in both direct talks with China and other nations or in meetings involving many nations in the hopes of pressuring China to recognize the ruling.
Duterte, especially early on in his administration, sought to downplay the Hague ruling to get on China’s good side for economic benefits.
The government then engaged in bilateral talks with China on the West Philippine Sea and, for a while, refrained from bringing it up in multilateral platforms. This has changed, with Duterte in 2020, mentioning the Hague ruling in the United Nations General Assembly.
Earlier on Monday, Duterte made his strongest remarks against China in another multilateral event, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s special summit with China. The gathering was co-hosted by no less than Chinese President Xi Jinping who Duterte previously hailed as a friend of Filipinos.
The Philippine leader said his government “abhors” the water cannon attack in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Last November 19, Moreno said his West Philippine Sea approach would be similar to that of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who has received praise for his strong messaging against China’s activities in the Natuna Sea while still benefiting from good economic ties with the Asian giant.
Can Isko strike that balance?
Moreno has also previously said he would bolster his foreign policy by better equipping the Navy and Coast Guard with resources, equipment, and assets to protect Filipinos and Philippine interests.
“Hindi natin kailangan makipag-giyera, pero kailangan maipakita natin na may sarili tayong disposisyon at buo ang damdamin natin na ipaglaban ‘yung marapat lamang sa atin,” said the Manila chief.
(We don’t need to go to war but we need to show that we have our own disposition and firm resolve to fight for what is rightfully ours.)
Moreno barely hinted at the Duterte administration’s soft approach to China, which some analysts blame for Beijing’s brazen acts.
The Manila mayor only said that there has been “confusion in the past” about the Philippines’ position on China’s activities but that it was time to “move forward” from that.
But Moreno wants to continue Duterte’s policy of working with China to explore for, and extract, oil resources in the West Philippine Sea, as long as China does this under Philippine law. – Rappler.com