MANILA - Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday expressed support to the protest filed by the Philippine government against China over recent developments in the South China Sea.
The protests covered the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters and declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province, “violating international law and Philippine sovereignty,” according to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.
In a statement, Del Rosario accused China of “exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic” in pursuing its illegal and expansive claims” in the South China Sea, “to the prejudice of Filipinos, the ASEAN states and the international community.”
ASEAN refers to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam have competing claims with China and Taiwan in parts of the South China Sea. Beijing continues to claim almost the entire body of water despite a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague striking down its basis as illegal.
“China must finally demonstrate to the world that, at this time of desired unity, it is capable of undertaking a constructive leadership posture which clearly places consistency between its declarations and its actions in accordance with the rule of law,” said del Rosario, who, while serving as the country's top diplomat during the previous administration, initiated the arbitration case against China in 2013.
“For a country that is striving to be recognized as a world power—when yet?”
Del Rosario earlier asked government to protest China’s establishment of a Paracel (Xisha) district and a Spratly (Nansha) district as part of Sansha City of Hainan province.
Del Rosario urged Filipinos to remain vigilant “in the defense of our country’s territory and sovereign rights even as we confront a very grave threat as COVID-19.”
“As we struggle against a pandemic that poses a real threat to our lives, we must not also risk losing our national patrimony upheld by international law and meant for present and future generations of Filipinos,” he said in a statement Sunday.
The COVID-19 was first reported in China's Wuhan City in December last year before spreading to many parts of the world, affecting more than 2.4 million people, including nearly 170,000 deaths, as of April 22, according to the World Health Organization.