Papal nuncio calls for respect for international rules

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Papal nuncio calls for respect for international rules
President Marcos and Papal Nuncio Charles Brown toast during the vin d’honneur or formal reception for diplomats at Malacañang yesterday.
Ryan Baldemor

MANILA, Philippines — In the presence of China’s envoy, President Marcos and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown yesterday highlighted the importance of respect for international law, with Marcos citing the Filipinos’ “sacrosanct” mandate to defend the country from “those who will try to cross the red lines.”

Brown, dean of the diplomatic corps, said the world was experiencing “dangerous polarization” when former president Diosdado Macapagal proposed to change the date of the Philippines’ Independence Day.

He lamented that the present geopolitical situation is not so different.

“The end of history did not arrive in the 1990s. History has continued. Polarization and violent conflicts resulting from it are a reality at this moment,” the papal nuncio said at the Independence Day vin d’honneur or formal reception for diplomats

Marcos, in his remarks during the toast, said the Philippines pursues an independent foreign policy through international engagements that seek to boost existing alliances and build new partnerships with like-minded states.

“Our foreign policy is grounded on the continuing promotion and work for peace, and the continuing promotion and work for our national interest,” Marcos told members of the diplomatic community at Malacañang.

“On the global stage, we have taken positions in support of the rule of law and of the rules-based international order, grounded on the principles laid out in the UN Charter and multilateral conventions,” he said.

Marcos said the Philippines would promote diplomacy and dialogue, and strive to enhance engagements with bilateral, regional and multilateral partners, “especially in areas where cooperation has not yet reached its full potential.”

While emphasizing the need for stronger alliances, Marcos said the Philippines continues to fight for its independence and defend everything that it rightfully owns.

“On many occasions, great trials have all the more strengthened our resolve and unified our people because as I have said, ‘Filipinos do not yield,’” the President said.

“The struggle for Philippine independence continues to reverberate to this day, not against colonial oppression, but against modern-day challenges.”

Marcos said Filipinos draw inspiration from the valor, resilience and untiring spirit of their forefathers as they tackle “new challenges” confronting the country.

“Today’s reception is more than just a commemoration of the birth of the Philippine Republic – the first in Asia – but a strong affirmation of our century-old nationhood, and of our collective duty as Filipinos to safeguard what our forefathers have fought and died for, so we may carry on our sacrosanct mandate to protect our country and to defend everything that is (rightfully) ours from those who will try to cross (the red lines),” he said.

“We must dig deep into our valiant past, draw strength from the heroism of our forefathers and let this heritage of selflessness propel us forward into the future,” he added.

Brown suggested the holding of dialogues to make the world prosperous and safe for children, citing the peace process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“(Patience), serious dialogue, together with a respect for international law and a respect for legitimate diversity. Engaging with others, and particularly those with whom we profoundly disagree, is the surest way of avoiding the catastrophe of escalation,” the prelate said.

Marcos and Brown made the remarks before several envoys, including Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian, whose country has drawn widespread flak over its aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

In the same speech, Marcos touted the gains of the economy and the government’s handling of inflation.

“Despite woes brought by global inflation, the Philippines has still managed to curb inflation to a reasonable, almost manageable level,” Marcos said.

“It remains unfortunately our greatest problem and this inflation is brought by forces that we cannot control,” he said.

Marcos noted that the country’s inflation is at 3.5 percent, still within the government’s target band of two to four percent.

He cited the Philippines’ favorable credit rating, which leads to more accessible financing for the government’s programs.

“I (am) also happy to note that the Philippines continues to enjoy a good… credit rating as an investment destination. We are credited with a stable outlook, which signals (growth momentum) in the medium term,” he said.

Philippine flag raised in West Philippine Sea

Meanwhile, with 12 Chinese vessels hovering nearby, the BRP Teresa Magbanua of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has raised the country’s flag while patrolling in Escoda (Sabina) Shoal in the WPS, to mark the 126th Philippine Independence Day.

Like in previous Independence Day celebrations, the PCG raised the flag in all its districts, stations and vessels.

But what could be the most heartfelt and memorable was the flag-raising ceremony onboard the Magbanua yesterday.

“While our personnel onboard the BRP Teresa Magbanua were having their flag-raising ceremony at 8 a.m. of June 12, there were Chinese ships nearby,” PCG spokesman Armand Balilo said.

Citing reports, Balilo said there were eight and four Chinese ships in and out of Escoda Shoal, respectively, belonging to the China Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia.


Fishers’ group New Masinloc Fishermen Association (NMFA) said the bullying by the CCG has intensified after China banned fishing activities in areas in the WPS that include the Philippines territory.

NMFA president Leonardo Cuaresma said that Pinoy fishermen are driven away by the CCG and were not allowed near the lagoon in Panatag Shoal.

The Philippines has protested the unilateral ban issued by Beijing, which will start on June 15.

Cuaresma said the number of Chinese ships in Panatag has increased.

“Since the start of the campaign of the government to fight for our sovereignty, even personnel of Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard,” he said, adding the CCG even pointed guns at some Filipino fishermen.

Cuaresma advised fishermen to sail by groups so they could defend themselves in case the CCG would harass them.

Navy patrols to intensify

Meanwhile, amid reports of military drills conducted by China in the Philippines EEZ, local maritime agencies have intensified their presence in the area, according to Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Navy spokesman for the WPS.

Trinidad said aside from the Navy, the PCG and BFAR intensified their patrols even before the Chinese conducted military drills on June 2.

“The Philippine Navy had an internal adjustment to allow us to project more ships in our EEZ. It will allow us more patrols and regulation,” Trinidad said in an interview with “Storycon” on One News.

He said the military drills conducted by China in the Philippines’ EEZ were illegal, noting that freedom of navigation only allows foreign ships to travel from one point to another.

In the case of China’s activities, he said they monitored deployment of hovercrafts, launching of helicopters and ship maneuvers.

The drills happened near Escoda Shoal, which is located between Palawan and Ayungin (Second Thomas) shoal, where the grounded BRP Sierra Madre is located.

Trinidad said China made a broadcast in the early morning of June 2 to warn ships in the area that an exercise would be conducted later that day.

Fight for Philippine territory

Fighting for the country’s territory in the WPS is a gift for the next Filipino generation, according to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

NICA chief Ricardo de Leon said the agency, which operates abroad and in all 17 regions in the country, has always been on watch to ensure that policymakers are properly guided and advised.

“The policy of the President is to talk. We have to be rules-based, follow the international law. We have legitimate claims over the West Philippine Sea. The Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal) is our traditional fishing ground, which is in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” De Leon said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

He said the Philippines’ dispute with China is a regional issue that would affect neighboring nations.

He allayed fears of any armed conflict with China over the maritime dispute, saying the President is an advocate of peace.

US commitment

?The United States remains unwavering in its defense commitments to the Philippines amid rising maritime aggression, according to State Secretary Antony Blinken.

In a statement marking the Philippines’ Independence Day, Blinken reaffirmed the longstanding US-Philippines alliance and celebrated the vibrant ties, rooted in the two nations’ long and interwoven history and shared sacrifice.

“As we work together to uphold international law in the South China Sea, the United States remains unwavering in our commitment to the defense of the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Blinken said.

“More broadly, we remain committed to working alongside the Philippines, as friends, partners and allies, as we strive for a safer, more prosperous world,” he said.

The US diplomat said his country is proud of its work with the Philippines to realize the shared ideals as democracies, uphold international law, pursue inclusive and sustainable economic growth and promote human rights. – Evelyn Macairan, Bella Cariaso, Jose Rodel Clapano, Pia Lee-Brago

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