MANILA — Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario Jr. on Monday lauded President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s position on the South China Sea in the face of Beijing's aggression.
"We believe that President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is taking proper steps in defending the rights of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea," said del Rosario, chairman of political think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.
Del Rosario particularly highlighted the Marcos administration's move to expand the United States' access to Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), as well as the idea of joint patrols "with like-minded nations" in the West Philippine Sea.
Marcos recently bared that the Philippines could possibly enter into a tripartite military deal with the US and Japan, but clarified that the deal was only floated "in principle."
"If successfully done, these are steps that have the effect of deterring Chinese aggressions against the Philippines," del Rosario said.
But the former top diplomat said that there was "so much [that] needs to be done" in defending the Philippines' position in the South China Sea.
"President Marcos Jr. has a very challenging task ahead as Chinese counterpart continues to press on its illegal nine-dash line claim despite the 2016 Arbitral Award, while bullying Filipino fishermen, coast guard and navy personnel in their own waters, as well as our neighbors in the South China Sea," he said.
Del Rosario also highlighted the need for the Philippines to maintain "rules-based international order against the unlawful policies of aggression being pursued by the leaders of China and Russia," saying that dismantling such order would be "catastrophic for humanity."
"We should not forget the lesson of the past world wars that a policy of appeasement towards aggressors resulted in disasters. Given what is at stake, we should no longer think twice at firmly pushing back against aggression, like what is being displayed by China and Russia," del Rosario said.
He was referring to the appeasement policy that Allied countries used to counter Adolf Hitler's aggressive expansion of territories in Europe, which ultimately resulted to World War II in 1939.
"We fully encourage President Marcos, Jr., as well as the leaders of the international community, to uphold the Rule of Law, where sovereign equality of states is observed in the sense that small nations like the Philippines are protected in their rights against the aggressions of bigger nations," del Rosario added.
Months before Marcos assumed the presidency, del Rosario also thanked the leader for expressing support for the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the West Philippine Sea.
"The 2016 Arbitral Ruling is not a claim but already a right; that our sovereignty is 'sacred' and that he would not 'allow a single millimeter of our maritime coastal rights to be trampled upon,'" he said last May.
Del Rosario's recent statement came a day after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it would publicize all Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea, a move lauded by experts as an attempt to counter disinformation on the issue.
Tensions between China and the Philippines continue due to claims in the South China Sea, with recent escalation on Feb. 6 when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel aimed a "military-grade" laser on PCG's BRP Malapascua vessel near the Ayungin Shoal.
The Philippines has since filed a diplomatic protest following the incident, the 76th of such notes lodged during the Marcos Jr. administration.
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