Philippines gains allies in arbitration case vs China – DFA chief
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - We are no longer alone.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario admitted yesterday that he initially felt the country was alone in the arbitration case it initiated against China and in seeking a lasting, legal and durable solution to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

“Now, I don’t feel alone anymore. We’ve gained allies,” Del Rosario said in the ANC Headstart program.

He went on 151 official missions to other countries to negotiate and assert the Philippines’ rightful position in the West Philippine Sea.

“My job is to seek help from other countries to be on our side, to help us not only in security but also economic cooperation,” Del Rosario added.

The government, according to him, took President Aquino’s position that “what is ours is ours” and tried to sit down with China over 50 times but “got nowhere because China wants undisputed sovereignty” in the West Philippine Sea.

“China’s position is unlawful. We’re not allowed to exercise our rights in our own territory,” the secretary said.

Under Del Rosario, the Philippines was the first country to question China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

He urged the United Nations arbitral tribunal not to give China the “golden key” that would allow Beijing to convert its nine-dash line in the South China Sea into a “Berlin Wall of the Sea” and a “giant fence” owned by, and excluding everyone but, Beijing itself.

“China wants to be a world power. To have that, they have to have the respect of other nations. They have to adhere to international laws,” Del Rosario said.

He hopes for the tribunal’s decision on the case by May this year.

Meanwhile, Del Rosario said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would be good for the country in the long run, especially in terms of dealing with external threats “that we cannot deal with by ourselves.”

He earlier said the EDCA is moving in terms of agreed locations.

“I think the momentum will move by itself. You must remember the purpose of EDCA is to improve our capacity for addressing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities and to improve the capacity of the Philippines by being assisted in terms of its modernization program,” Del Rosario pointed out.

The US earlier welcomed the Supreme Court decision declaring EDCA, which has new components like allowing US access to existing Philippine military facilities without establishing bases, as being consistent with the Philippine Constitution.

The agreement will also allow the US to construct roads, bridges or buildings that will be owned by the Philippines, and to preposition its personnel and materials in the country to improve the Philippines’ disaster response capabilities.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg said the EDCA is also in the interest of the US by allowing it to be more present in the region. 

He also said that, under the EDCA, the US has proposed more cooperation in terms of maritime security, noting that “it is an issue that has emerged as a new interest and a new challenge for the Philippine Armed Forces.” 

 

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