"To end, the positions that we take today will resound over time. In taking the right strategy, our government can only enhance its standing among our peers and ensure its legacy for the generations that will succeed us," former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said. Philstar.com

Philippines urged to exhaust all diplomatic avenues to promote arbitral ruling
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - July 12, 2017 - 8:19am

MANILA, Philippines — Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to exhaust all available diplomatic avenues to promote the ruling of an international tribunal and the rule of international law.

A year after the United Nations-backed tribunal issued the award in favor of the Philippines, Del Rosario suggested that the Duterte administration should be categorical on protecting national sovereignty.

Del Rosario led the Philippine delegation in filing an arbitration case against China, which the latter refused to honor.

On July 12, 2016, the international arbitral tribunal issued a landmark ruling invalidating Beijing's nine-dash claim over the South China Sea.

"I suggest that we exhaust all diplomatic avenues that are available to us in promoting the ruling and the rule of international law," Del Rosario said in a forum organized by Stratbase ADR Institute.

The Philippines must protest China's acts which are unlawful, coercive and contrary to correct principles that govern relations between states, the former foreign affairs secretary said.

He added that China has neither changed its direction nor exercised greater restraint for the past year.

"Despite its friendlier face, we do not see restraint in China’s militarization and unlawful activity in the West Philippine Sea," he said.

READ: As it engages Duterte, China keeps building in South China Sea

Last May, the Philippines and China conducted a bilateral consultation mechanism to resolve the South China Sea dispute. Both parties are expected to meet again during the second half of 2017.

"We should seek cooperation from like-minded states. We should be ready to approach the UN General Assembly to appeal to the global village of nations," Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario also noted that China's expansion in the West Philippine Sea began many years ago, noting that reports from respected organizations that Beijing has continued to fortify its military position in the disputed waters.

Washington-based CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently released satellite imagery showing that China is building structures for missile systems, including Manila-claimed Panganiban or Mischief Reef.

"In consonance with our Constitution, we should pursue efforts to explore our resources to the ultimate benefit of the Filipino people. We cannot trade away our sovereignty or sovereign rights, and we should not give even the impression that we are willing to do so," the former secretary said.

Del Rosario, however, noted that any suggestion of war should be shunned and that the government should exhaust diplomacy by protesting the threat of war.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened that there would be a war if the Philippines will drill oil in the West Philippine Sea.

"We cannot allow others to play with the threat of war when our submitted disputes have already been clarified in the ruling," Del Rosario said.

Xi's threat of war against the Philippines shows how Chinese leadership perceives us, he said.

"Despite an effort in this country to encourage sobriety and restraint, I am concerned that we will reap no more than a friendly face," Del Rosario said.

The Philippine government, on the other hand, hailed its "neighborly relations" with China a year after the arbitral tribunal's ruling.

"The Duterte administration reaffirms its unwavering commitment to protect our country’s territorial claims and maritime entitlements, but believes that the ongoing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea should further be resolved in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighbourly relations," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released Wednesday.

Malacañang also claimed that the relationship between China and the Philippines have improved a year after the ruling.

"A year after the ruling of a [Permanent Court of Arbitration] at The Hague, Philippines and China are now in dialogue," Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

RELATED: Analysis: The July 12 ruling exposed China’s strategy

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