China can’t selectively choose its interests from Law of the Sea – del Rosario
China cannot selectively choose what is convenient for their interests when it comes to interpreting the rule of law in the South China Sea, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Friday.
In his speech in a forum on rules-based international system organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute in Taguig City, the former top diplomat said that China has continuously rejected the rule of law by snubbing the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
He said the Asian superpower’s militarization of the disputed waters continues to be one of the most important and contentious external threat not only to the Philippines but to the entire region.
China claims most parts of the South China Sea, including the waters close to the shores of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The ruling on a challenge brought by the Philippines to the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s sweeping claim in July 2016.
The Duterte administration, however, set aside the ruling in exchange for economic opportunities and friendly ties with China.
As a signatory of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea, del Rosario said China “cannot pick and choose arbitrarily” what is favorable to them.
“Our northern neighbor must abide by the totality of UNCLOS,” he added.
‘Not too late’
Del Rosario said it is not yet too late for the Philippines to stand up for the rule of law and uphold the arbitral ruling.
“We need to regain the respect of responsible nations by clearly standing up for the rule of law. We can begin by rallying for the support of other countries,” he said.
International law, del Rosario said, has given “an equal voice to nations regardless of political, economic or military stature, banishing the unlawful use of sheer force.”
“Our country is therefore presented with two choices—do we stand strongly for the rule of law? Or do we, by default, allow ourselves to be ruled by China?”
He urged the Philippine government and its people to “act with peaceful resistance against threats to our sovereign rights and most importantly, the decline of rule of law.”
“If we truly adhere and respect the rule of law, we should actively seek to end any unlawful and aggressive attack to the rules-based international system,” he said.
Del Rosario warned that staying silent would mean weaponizing the aggressor to do more harm.
“By being silent, we have encouraged further aggression into our territories and marine resources,” he said.
In the same speech, he also lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent public rebuke to China over its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
“Nine out of ten Filipinos would be encouraged and inspired by this manifestation of our President’s positive leadership,” he said./ac
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