MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. used his first address at the United Nations General Assembly to champion the Philippines’ commitment to the rule of law, particularly at sea.
Marcos, who was the first Philippine leader to address the summit in-person in nearly a decade, made no explicit mention of the 2016 Hague ruling, but by raising Manila’s contribution to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, made an indirect reference to the country’s historic legal award over China in the West Philippine Sea.
“At this time of crisis and opportunity, I bring with me the spirit of their (Filipinos’) enduring commitment to the ideals of our United Nations. This commitment is reflected in our solid contributions to the cause of peace and justice,” he said.
Marcos continued: “By reinforcing the predictability and stability of international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we provided an example of how states should resolve their differences: through reason and through right.”
There had been questions over whether Marcos would use his first high-profile international speech to raise the Philippines’ legal award. His predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, had used his first address at the UN summit in 2020 to uphold the Hague ruling – a historic move that came after years of downplaying the award in a bid to boost warmer ties with Beijing.
“The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon,” Duterte declared at the time.
The arbitral award – the Philippines’ strongest leverage and a ruling Beijing continues to ignore – had been a legacy of the late former president Benigno Aquino III, son of the rival of late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Despite this, Marcos said that the country’s contribution to strengthening UNCLOS, along with its shepherding of the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, showed that upholding a “rules-based international order” provided stability during a “watershed moment” for the world.
“These two contributions provide useful guidance for our time,” he said.
The 77th UNGA, in particular, takes place under the shadow of the ongoing war in Ukraine, COVID-19 pandemic, food shortages, as well as mounting environmental crisis.
Marcos said the “sharpening strategic competition” as well as a “profound lack of trust” placed immense strain in addressing these issues.
“Our very Charter is being violated around the world as we speak…. These behoove us to uphold the ideals that led to the establishment of this parliament of nations, and to reject any attempt to deny or redefine our common understanding of these principles,” he added.
During his address, Marcos also echoed calls to reform the UN Security Council, announcing that the Philippines would vie for a seat in the powerful UN body during its 2027-2028 term.
The Philippine leader likewise called for action on climate change, which he described as the “greatest threat” facing the world and a problem that reflected a “historical injustice” against countries who were least responsible, but most affected by a warming planet.
“This injustice must be corrected, and those who need to do more must act now,” Marcos said. “How we address it will be the true test of our time.” – Rappler.com