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DFA seeks P29 million funding for arbitral ruling info campaign

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
DFA seeks P29 million funding for arbitral ruling info campaign
The request for the restoration of at least P2.3 billion in cuts made by the Department of Budget and Management was made during the hearing on the DFA’s proposed P20.3-billion outlay for next year by the Senate finance subcommittee chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.
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MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is seeking the restoration of cuts made to its proposed budget for 2023, including P29 million intended for sustaining international and local awareness of the significance of the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea.

The request for the restoration of at least P2.3 billion in cuts made by the Department of Budget and Management was made during the hearing on the DFA’s proposed P20.3-billion outlay for next year by the Senate finance subcommittee chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.

DFA Assistant Secretary Sulpicio Confiado said the P29 million is earmarked for various activities and programs, including putting up and maintaining a website on the country’s victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to “gain and solicit stronger support from members of the international community to promote the rule of law, which the Arbitral Award represents.”

Among the activities and programs that need funding are the development and publication of a book on Philippine milestones on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the writing of think-pieces by academics for general publication, facilitation and promotion of the recognition of the arbitral award by the DFA and embassies, administrative support for dialogue activities, and engaging the services for personnel dedicated to manage the Marine Scientific Research application process to demonstrate that that the country is performing its duties as a coastal state under UNCLOS.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo told senators the award “conclusively settled the status of historical rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.”

“It declared as without legal effects, legal effect claims that exceed geographic kind of substantive limits of maritime entitlements on their own course. It also upheld the Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction and its exclusive economic zone. This milestone decision should serve as an inspiration for how disagreements should be resolved,” Manalo said.

He said this also marks the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties on the South China Sea.

He said he also raised “key concerns” with his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, but did not elaborate.

Sen. Robinhood Padilla, who was attending the hearing online, however Robinhood insisted that the proposed campaign should also include issues on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US.

He stressed the Arbitral Award, MDT and VFA are related and that there is no guarantee that the US will come to the country’s aid if attacked, citing the 2017 Marawi siege where he said American forces did not assist the military.

Manalo said the US has reiterated its commitment to defending the Philippines when the MDT is triggered and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega followed up, reassuring Padilla that the DFA and the government is ready to defend the country “kung sino man ang lulusob sa atin, maging sino man sila (whoever will attack us, whoever they are).”

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