For bringing honor back to PH, Aquino lauds envoys
President Aquino feted Thursday the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for bringing “national honor” back to the Philippines in the face of China’s perceived aggression in the South China Sea.
Aquino, speaking at the DFA’s 118th founding anniversary, particularly praised former Secretary Albert del Rosario for his efforts at keeping the international community aware of China’s expansionist moves and for spearheading the campaign to take the case before a UN tribunal.
A ruling favoring the Philippines is expected to be handed down soon, invalidating China’s so-called nine-dash line that claims almost the entire South China Sea.
The President said “our outstanding image before the world has been restored” due to the hard work of Del Rosario and incumbent Sec. Rene Almendras.
“Most importantly, we have reclaimed our national honor. If we were once ignored by the international community, today we are one of the countries that are looked up to. If it used to be that others heard only bad news from the Philippines, today we are one of those always praised; wherever we went, we always brought back for the Filipino,” Aquino said.
On Wednesday, a Washington-based senior Department of State official urged China and all claimants in the sea region to refrain from taking any provocative action as soon as the UN arbitral tribunal hands down its ruling.
Aquino has played a crucial role in keeping the maritime dispute on top of the agenda of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and sought to push fellow regional leaders to sign a legally binding agreement to preserve the status quo while countries with overlapping claims try to work on a consensus.
“He played a key role in keeping the issue at the top of the Asean agenda, despite other members who wanted to keep it out of discussions, and in garnering support from outside players like the United States, Japan, Australia, Europe and India to balance China’s assertiveness,” said Gregory Poling, head of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).
In an e-mail to the Inquirer, Poling said Aquino shone “a light on the illegal nature of many Chinese claims and actions” in the strategic South China Sea region.