Two years after the country won a favorable ruling in the international court of arbitration, the Philippines has become a “willing victim” of China in the South China Sea dispute, said former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“The Philippines has had two years to take advantage of its position to develop and obtain the support of many countries whose principles are aligned with our own and with whom our own voice could be magnified. Sadly, however, this was not made to happen,” Del Rosario said at a forum organized by Stratbase Institute to mark the second anniversary of the arbitration ruling.
On July 12, 2016, ruling on a case brought by the Philippines, the international court of arbitration declared as invalid China’s nine-dash-line claims in the strategic waterway.
The ruling came a few weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016. However, he did not enforce the ruling and chose to set it aside in favor of economic aid and investments.
Del Rosario said “the government has persisted in allowing China to deprive our citizens of what is ours by continuing to shelve the tribunal outcome.”
“What may we call one that acquiesces to the abuses against it? Answer: A willing victim. What may we call one that defends an aggressor at every opportunity? Answer: An abettor,” he said.
As for China, the former Foreign Affairs chief called the country a “bully” and a “grand larcenist” for its unlawful activities that include the blocking of the development of the Philippines’ natural resources, destroying the marine environment, and the construction of military bases in the disputed waterway.
“What should we call one that uses muscle to deprive others of their rights? Answer: A bully. What should we call that unlawfully takes a significant property of others? Answer: A grant larcenist,” Del Rosario said.
However, the former Foreign Affairs Secretary said there is still time to do what is right, including multilateralism at the United Nations or with the Asean, or through bilateral engagements with other states.
“While we have allowed more than a few occasions to pass, there are opportunities yet for the Philippines to lead in promoting the rule of law,” Del Rosario said.
“We reiterate our position that coercive has no place in a rules-based international order…As Filipinos, we must voice our sentiments to our government and exercise our right to raise our indignation against China,” he said.
“We need all of our friends in the community of nations who believe in the rule of law to help us. But before we can hope for help, we must first demonstrate that we are worth helping,” he added