MANILA, Philippines – Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines must urge the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to back the 2016 Hague ruling that asserted the country's rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Del Rosario made the statement on Thursday, August 1, following recent incidents of Chinese vessels and warships found in Philippine waters.
Del Rosario warned the Philippines should adopt a "multilateral approach" to asserting its rights in the marine area "before we get shoved around any further leading us to irreversible consequences."
Del Rosario gave a twofold suggestion to do so, namely:
"For a full three years, we had endeavored to deal with Beijing on a bilateral basis resulting in our being bullied, harassed and intimidated. We are obviously no match for this Goliath who intends to have us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," Del Rosario said. (READ: Ex-PH officials bring China's Xi to Int'l Criminal Court)
The Philippines, through Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr, had earlier filed a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of Chinese fishing vessels stationed near Pag-asa Island in February and July 2019.
This was after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said about 113 Chinese vessels were recorded as having swarmed Pag-asa Island at a single point in time.
In February 2019, reports showed China deployed its maritime militia to the vicinity of Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) since at least July 2018, after the Philippines began constructing on the island.
Aside from this, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had also confirmed that several Chinese warships recently sailed through the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi 4 times since February without informing Philippine authorities.
Lorenza had told China to remind its vessels to always keep its automatic identification system (AIS) on when crossing Philippine waters.
Del Rosario's statement comes after Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio – a leading expert and staunch advocate of the West Philippine Sea – said the Philippines must take the lead in declaring a global policy requiring foreign ships to keep their trackers on when passing through Philippine waters.
Although Sibutu Strait is an international waterway where foreign ships have the “right of innocent passage," Carpio said passages must always be made known to the country.
Philippines-China relations have seen a turnaround under the Duterte administration, which has fostered friendlier ties with China by downplaying a decades-long sea dispute in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing. (READ: Philippines loses to China 3 years after Hague ruling) – Rappler.com