MANILA—The country’s former top diplomat and ombudsman consider the tension brewing in the South China Sea as the perfect time to finally “unshelve” Manila’s arbitration win.
The government, which has been favoring Beijing for some time, has recently denounced the presence of Chinese vessels in the Spratlys chain, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry hit back with a revisit of its historical claim of the territory.
“Amid the aggression and aggressive moves of our northern neighbor, it may be the right time to unshelve our arbitral outcome . . . and sit down with China for the enforcement,” former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario told radio DZMM Saturday.
China refuses to recognize a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal’s ruling that invalidated its sweeping 9-dash line claim that covers nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea. Duterte had set aside the decision to appease Beijing.
Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales urged Duterte to raise and insist again the country’s claim upon his visit to Beijing for the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation later this month.
“Dapat lang ang President natin should emphasize that ’yung pinagsasabi ng China, that despite the decision of the arbitral tribunal, na mali ang kanilang claim sa 9-dash line,” Carpio said.
(The president should emphasize that China’s 9-dash line claim, despite the decision of the arbitral tribunal, is wrong.)
Del Rosario and Carpio pinned their hopes on Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to develop recommendations to the President for the promotion of national interest.
They also hope that the government would bring the case to the United Nations General Assembly in a bid to win support from its member countries to pressure China.
“We have every confidence on Secretary Locsin. He is very intelligent, he is non-political and we believe that he has the national interest of the Filipinos at heart,” del Rosario said.
He added: “I think, in the past, if you are looking at SFAs that we have had, I think Secretary Locsin, the fact that he has no political agenda, he has the edge in terms of being able to negotiate objectively.”
Del Rosario and Carpio agreed that the Philippines should drive the policy to finally change the equation and eventually implement and enforce the arbitral ruling.
The two former officials recently filed a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged crimes against humanity over environmental damage in the South China Sea.