‘Duterte leaves shameful legacy of squandering arbitral award’

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
âDuterte leaves shameful legacy of squandering arbitral awardâ
President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on May 13, 2021.
Presidential Photo / Robinson Niñal Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte will leave a “shameful legacy” of squandering the 2016 Arbitral Award in exchange for Chinese loans and investments which have barely materialized to this day, former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said.

“If securing the Award became the centerpiece of foreign policy of the Aquino administration, the Award is the hallmark of shame for the Duterte administration, given President Duterte’s efforts to undermine it since the start of his term, to the prejudice of his countrymen,” Del Rosario said.

The country’s former top diplomat recalled that when the Award was rendered in 2016 at the start of Duterte’s term, there was already an order from Malacañang to “downplay” the Award for fear of displeasing China.

He described the “setting aside” of the Award as a “treasonous” policy of the Duterte administration.

“President Duterte has chosen China over Filipinos because he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping is protecting his presidency in the Philippines,” he stressed.

The Arbitral Award on the South China Sea rendered on July 12, 2016 by the Tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said, is one of former president Benigno Aquino III’s greatest legacies to the nation.

Del Rosario noted that securing the Award had been the centerpiece of foreign policy during the Aquino administration, and the Award will continue to be a centerpiece of Philippine foreign and security policy for the next administrations.

“The South China Sea dispute is an intergenerational challenge that will affect the lives of Filipinos and our Southeast Asian neighbors for decades to come,” he said.

He urged Filipinos to be discerning in the 2022 elections in the choice of leaders, saying the leaders should have genuine love for the Philippines as the country needs to regain its ground in protecting the West Philippine Sea.

“In the coming 2022 elections, we must vote for leaders who will put Filipinos first before China, money and power,” Del Rosario said. “The Filipino people should reject candidates whose motives are corrupt and are running for purposes of self-aggrandizement.”

“Let us be vigilant against traitors in our midst. We know who you are and whom you have embraced with your undying love to the detriment of our country’s patrimony,” he added.

In his late-night address on May 5, Duterte said the arbitral decision on the South China Sea row that favored the Philippines is just a piece of paper that can be thrown in the wastebasket.

In July, China dismissed the landmark arbitral ruling that went against its expansive South China Sea claims as “nothing more than a piece of waste paper.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo has expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to capitalize on the arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

In a virtual forum yesterday, Robredo said honoring the decision should go beyond lip service, stressing that invoking it would not mean that the country will go to war.

“For me that is a false binary,” she said, citing the case of Vietnam that continues to have good economic ties with China despite its strong stance against Chinese incursions.

The Vice President described the arbitration ruling as a weapon that the country could have used to engage with other countries in the region.

“That should have encouraged us to enter into multilateral agreements with our neighbors to strengthen our position against incursions… It was a missed opportunity,” she added in Filipino. – Janvic Mateo


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