MANILA - Accepting China's rejection of the Philippines' arbitral win that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims in the South China Sea may constitute betrayal of public trust, Manila's former top diplomat said Saturday.
During his recent visit to Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte - for the first time since assuming the presidency - raised the Philippines' arbitral win to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
But the meeting concluded with Xi maintaining Beijing's stance of "not recognizing the arbitral ruling," and both leaders agreeing that overlapping claims in the strategic waterway "need not derail nor diminish the amity between the two countries."
Earlier reports said Chinese officials asked their Philippine counterparts not to mention the arbitral victory again.
"For the Philippines to have been asked to agree that it will not bring up the issue again is to effectively accept without equivocation that China is above the rule of law," former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.
"This would be so wrong. It would be a betrayal of the trust we have placed in our governance," said Del Rosario, during whose time as top diplomat the Philippines initiated arbitral proceedings against China over the South China Sea disputes in 2013.
The public "must convince our leadership that we need to strengthen our resolve, and not have it weakened," he said. "The arbitral tribunal outcome is now an integral part of international law. This should have been the setting between the two presidents in Beijing."
The Philippines filed an arbitration case against China under the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, but the favorable ruling was awarded to the Philippines in July 2016, when Duterte had taken over Malacañang.
Prior to his recent visit to Beijing, Duterte had shelved the ruling as he turned to China for loans to fund his administration's massive infrastructure push.
Instead of accepting China's position, the Philippines needs to "prepare a strategy for taking our case to the United Nations," Del Rosario said.
"It will take time and hard work, but we must do this for the sake of our many generations to come," he said.