Ex-DFA chief: Fight vs China in sea row up to us
MANILA, Philippines — If President Rodrigo Duterte “cannot do anything” stance against China’s aggressive grab of disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, it was up to ordinary Filipinos and “patriotic” government officials to defend “what is rightfully and legitimately ours,” said former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday.
“We Filipinos should continue to stand for what is right and to defend what is rightfully and legitimately ours under the rule of law,” the former chief diplomat said in a statement. “We must not be willing victims by acquiescing to China’s blatant violation of the rule of law. We must not be silent as silence encourages further aggression into our lands and seas,” Del Rosario added. At the very least, the government should not stand in the way of Filipinos “legitimately protecting their own lands and waters,” the 80-year old former official said. ‘Inutile’
In his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Duterte said he was “inutile” against China’s unlawful incursions within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea because China was in “possession of the property.”
“China is in possession. So what can we do? We have to go to war and I can’t afford it. Maybe some other President can, but I cannot. I’m inutile on that matter, I tell you. And I’m willing to admit it. I cannot do anything,” the Chief Executive said.
Del Rosario said the country trusted the President and relied on his promise to invoke and enforce the landmark ruling of the arbitral tribunal that the Philippines won against China on July 12, 2016. The ruling upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and dismissed China’s claims to nearly the entire sea as having no basis in law. Although a signatory to the Unclos, China has rejected the decision.
“It therefore falls on us citizens and our patriotic officials in government to protect our nation’s patrimony for the benefit of our forefathers who defended it and for the benefit of future generations of Filipinos,” said Del Rosario, who led the country’s arbitration campaign in 2013.
He also called on Filipinos to ally with countries “which share our democratic values and respect for the rule of law to be able to stand up to a bully like China.” He was alluding to the United States and Australia, which recently called most of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea as “illegal.”
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