"Malacañang’s response was characteristically crass and insulting."
The 5th Anniversary of the 2016 arbitral ruling was marked with rising indignation spurred by the continuing incursions of Chinese vessels and their unbridled destruction of the marine environment in our Exclusive Economic Zone, a strategic resource of our food supply.
The most prominent and enlightening celebration of this globally significant legal victory is the international virtual forum of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) where the most eloquent and credible statements were quoted from a distinguished panel of international geopolitical thought leaders whose key insights, I will be sharing today to highlight the urgency for action on this most critical threat to our interest.
ADRi President Prof. Dindo Manhit in his statement stressed that the recognition of the international community and like-minded states, including the United States, Japan, Australia, and India of our legal victory against China is an opportunity for multilateral cooperation to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We must not allow China’s blatant disregard of the UNCLOS and the rule of law. The Filipino people deserve a government that prioritizes the security and welfare of its citizens before others. We must unceasingly uphold the legacy of the 2016 arbitral ruling and our leaders should step up and create a unified action to defend the West Philippine Sea,” Prof. Manhit said.
Former Australian Foreign Minister Hon Julie Bishop echoed Australia’s statement acknowledging the ruling as final and binding and called upon the Philippines and China to abide by its terms. She reiterated Australia’s long held support for UNCLOS as the global framework for the lawful use of oceans and which is the appropriate forum for peaceful resolution of disputes.
“Australia, like the Philippines, is a military ally of the United States, and the US cause remains the pre-eminent military power globally. Thus, we have the responsibility to maintain capability to ensure that we can meet any treaty obligations in hope of course that no conflict breaks out between nation-states,” Bishop said.
Amb. Kenichiro Sasae, the Former Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated Japan’s commitment to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) to keep a free and open regional order and to achieve peace and prosperity in the entire region. He supported the arbitration approach pursued by the Philippines and its validity based on the rule of law and in accordance with the internationally established procedures.
“The award is a final and legally binding on the disputing parties in accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS and the parties must comply with it,” Amb. Sasae said.
Former Foreign Secretary of India, Amb. Lalit Mansingh, decried China’s aggressive and hegemonic nature.
Mansingh said that China is “a country that questions the very idea of the international order based on respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty, the rule of law, and freedom of access to global economies.”
He called on the ASEAN to look at initiatives like the “Quad” which shares its values systems and welcomes issue-based cooperation with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
The Quad is a strategic alliance of India, Australia, Japan and the US revitalized to ensure the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region being upset by China’s aggression in the SCS and the Himalayas.
Former US Ambassador to the Philippines, Amb. Harry K. Thomas, Jr. for his part said that the ASEAN must come to a shared agreement on the West Philippine Sea and the other parts of the South China Sea.
Amb. Thomas said, “We want to see alternative supply chains or export to, not only the United States, but throughout ASEAN. And we want to see the excellent use of military assets and maintenance and training which is very important.”
“We don’t want a war, we don’t want a trade war, or a kinetic war. But we don’t want to be subject to a country,” Amb. Thomas said.
ADRi Chairman Albert Del Rosario, known for his passionate commitment that led to the arbitral victory in his elegantly honest statesmanship, denounced the “self-proclaimed failure of leadership” that caused the loss of momentum in the country’s fight for the West Philippine Sea.
He said, “This admission may be seen as another way to escape accountability and it also sums up President Duterte’s failed leadership in the West Philippine Sea.”
“We can say that there are two out of several of President Duterte’s statements that have turned out to be true: first, that he is “inutil” in protecting the West Philippine Sea; and second, that he “simply loves Xi Jinping,” Amb. Del Rosario said.
On the other hand, the response of Malacañang to the diplomatically expressed advise of the respectable geopolitical experts, which I am sure aligns with the widely dominant sentiment of Filipinos, was characteristically crass and insulting, an arrogant disservice to what is supposed to be the leadership’s constitutional duty to defend our national interests. This will be a protracted struggle that the next administration will hopefully do a better job.