Del Rosario urges Duterte: Time to act on China claims
MANILA, Philippines — Now may be “the best time to address the arbitral tribunal outcome,” former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Saturday, following China’s insistence on its claims over South China Sea and its maritime features.
“The Nansha (Spratly) Islands are within China’s territory, for which we have sufficient historical and legal basis,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Thursday in a press conference in Beijing.
Addressing Lu’s statement, Del Rosario said: “President [Rodrigo Duterte] should now take up with China” the enforcement of the arbitral award which China seemed to be challenging despite its refusal to participate in the arbitration proceedings.
“What is currently notable is that Beijing is now clearly revisiting its excessive and unlawful claim in the South China Sea that has been ruled upon by the arbitral tribunal, which ruling is now an integral part of international law,” Del Rosario said, referring to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippine claim over China’s in the disputed territory.
Del Rosario said the continuing presence of Chinese ships around Pag-asa (Thitu) and other islands occupied by the Philippines should give impetus to the Duterte administration in exerting efforts to enforce the arbitral award.
“(A)mid aggressive moves by our northern neighbor in such areas as Pag-asa … it may be the right time to finally unshelve our arbitral outcome enabling our Secretary of Foreign Affairs to develop recommendations for our President’s consideration,” he added.
Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) last month to investigate and prosecute top Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, saying that the “atrocious actions of Chinese officials in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory” constitute crimes against humanity that the tribunal can prosecute.
The two former officials filed the complaint, technically called a communication, on behalf of Filipinos and the hundreds of thousands of Filipino fishermen “persecuted and injured” by China’s aggressive island-building and occupation of islands in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Del Rosario suggested that “the government rely on Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Teodoro Locsin Jr.) to be responsible for all aspects of foreign relations.”
Locsin: It means war
However, in a comment posted on Twitter during his conversation with netizens on Friday, Locsin seemed to rule out Del Rosario’s suggestion.
“The tribunal does not expect us to enforce its decision. In fact, the tribunal opposes any enforcement because it means war,” Locsin said.
He added: “We are talking to the (Chinese) but firm with basic demands.”
Stumble on a pebble
Locsin also recalled what he said in an interview with a Chinese daily: “The road of Philippine-Chinese cooperation is wide and long and paved, but on it is a small worthless pebble of reefs; if we stumble on that pebble, it’s over because that contains our national honor.”
The foreign secretary also defended his personal position that the Filipinos should not discount going to war to settle the dispute.
“When it comes to war, never say never. There was a saying embossed on the cannons of [French King] Louis XIV: Ultima ratio regis (The king’s final argument). Artillery is the last argument of kings. War is what distinguishes sovereign nations. Death is what gives life to states. The [Spanish fascist political party] Falange battle-cry was ‘Vive la muerte’ (Long live death)!”
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