Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to seek more international support for the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that rejected Beijing’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.
“That is an optimistic development. He finally took it upon himself to say that the tribunal’s ruling cannot be subjected to a compromise or different interpretation by different countries,” she told an ANC interview.
“We have to follow the arbitral ruling to a tee. The President made a good start, and he should continue to request or intimate to other countries to support us in our quest for the implementation of the arbitral ruling,” she said.
In his first-ever address to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday dawn, Duterte said the arbitral ruling was “beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon,” and that the Philippines “firmly rejects attempts to undermine it.”
France, Germany and the United Kingdom earlier expressed their support to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China’s nine-dash line claim.
Morales earlier filed a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping alongside former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario before the International Criminal Court, accusing China’s leader and other mainland government officials of committing crimes against humanity with the repeated encroachment and aggression on Filipino fishermen within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, however, dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction last year, but Morales said they remain unfazed.
“We are filing this month what amounts as a motion for reconsideration before the Office of the Prosecutor. We insist that the crimes committed by Xi Jinping et al. were committed within the Philippine territory and also within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Even if it were not on Philippine territory like the Gem-Ver, it involved a Philippine-registered vessel,” she said.
“Before we filed the communication, we spent days and weeks on end to reflect on our chances. We are very confident that we will succeed in this program of ours, irrespective of whether there is precedent. We believe that we will win this case,” she added.
In June last year, a Chinese vessel rammed into the Filipino boat f/b Gem-Ver in the vicinity of Recto Bank, also called Reed Bank, an underwater feature in the West Philippine Sea also being claimed by China.
The Filipinos were abandoned by the Chinese crew, floating at sea for hours before they were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Duterte must stay true in his resolve to reject any attempts to subvert the arbitral ruling.
She said the President’s statement before the UNGA must mirror reality on the ground by resuming operations against poachers and reinforcing state presence in the areas that are occupied by the Philippines.
“I am encouraged by his tone before the UN, and I do believe in the power of words. But, as always, I will remain watchful as to how these words translate into action,” she said.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez likewise urged Duterte to “walk the talk” and support his invocation of the arbitral ruling “with concrete and consistent actions.”
“He made it clear to Beijing that the ruling cannot be compromised despite the cordial relations and friendship existing between the two nations. China should not misread such friendship as weakness on our part,” Rodriguez said.
“We can for instance continue to rally regional and international support for the ruling. We can also increase patrols in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where some Chinese-occupied features the arbitral court had ruled as belonging to the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea are located,” he added.