MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday, December 19, criticized the Duterte administration for not protesting China's militarization of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Del Rosario also scored the government for saying it will set aside the arbitral ruling against China's claim over the West Philippine Sea, and for declaring that it "will prepare to unwind" the Philippines' Visited Forces Agreement with the US.
In a statement, Del Rosario said, "The foregoing declarations are most sadly being made after we had taken a firm rules-based position to defend what is ours – and won. Now, we seem to be on a track to relinquish those gains that have been made to benefit our people."
Del Rosario, under whose watch the Philippines filed a case against China in January 2013, cited China's violations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
"We appear to be well on the way to placing the country’s future in the hands of our northern neighbor who – even as our government had fostered a closer relations between our two countries – is now effectively demeaning our stand for upholding the rule of law by its continuing and clear violations of UNCLOS to our detriment," the Philippines' former top diplomat said.
"Mutual respect for the rule of law, we now know, is not possible," the former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) added.
No other option
Del Rosario said: "Before it is too late, we have no other option but to posture ourselves strongly with responsible nations to continue to uphold international law lest we find ourselves in that undesirable place where we will be left twisting in the wind."
Del Rosario issued this statement after his successor Perfecto Yasay Jr said of China's reported militarization of the West Philippine Sea: "There is nothing that we can do about that now."
Yasay has not announced any plan to file a diplomatic protest against China – in contrast to the DFA under Del Rosario, which was known to file protests whenever China made provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea.
At the same time, Duterte on December 16 said that he "will set aside the arbitral ruling" against China "because the politics here in Southeast Asia is changing."
Duterte also told the US to "prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement," the foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.