Critics and allies alike of President Rodrigo Duterte praised him Wednesday for invoking before the United Nations General Assembly a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that struck down China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea in favor of the Philippines.
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and Ambassador Lauro Baja, the country’s former permanent ambassador to the UN, commended the President for departing from his usual policy of appeasing Beijing in speaking to the UN via a taped message for the first time.
Most Senators also praised the President’s speech on the UN’s 75th anniversary, as they hoped he would speak with the same clarity on issues to Filipinos.
“I personally commend the strong stand that President Rodrigo Duterte made before the UN General Assembly that the arbitral award in the South China Sea arbitration is ‘beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon’,” said Carpio, who has been in the forefront of the campaign to protect the country’s maritime sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio also lauded the President for acknowledging the countries that have expressed their support for the Philippines’ legal victory over China.
Last week, France, Germany and the United Kingdom filed notes verbale before the UN expressing their rejection of China’s so-called nine-dash claim over the South China Sea.
Carpio expressed hopes that Duterte would maintain this position for the rest of his term.
“I fervently hope that this is the policy that the Duterte administration will implement across all levels – in the protection of our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippines Sea, in the negotiations for the Code of Conduct, and in gathering the support of the international community for the enforcement of the arbitral award,” he said.
Del Rosario said the President should solicit the support of more countries for the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral victory against China’s claims in the South China Sea.
“The next step is for our President and his administration to put in reality the invocation of the arbitral award,” Del Rosario said in a statement.
“Our government should work earnestly to get the support of more countries so that the arbitral award will be raised more emphatically next year for the UN General Assembly 2021,” he added.
For the first since the Philippines won its case in the PCA, Duterte declared before the UN General Assembly that the award was “beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.”
Duterte had earlier set aside the arbitration ruling in favor of friendly relations with Beijing, which has refused to recognize the PCA ruling.
Baja agreed with Del Rosario, saying Manila must follow-up with Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, meanwhile, commended the team who wrote the President’s speech.
“If there’s an Emmy for the UN General Assembly speeches, the one he delivered can win the prize for the best written,” said Recto in a separate statement.
“The team who put policies to prose should be congratulated. What they put together is the template for presidential addresses: cohesive, coherent, and straight to the point,” Recto added.
Recto said the President should speak with the same degree of clarity when addressing the country, as Duterte has been putting out weekly televised public addresses during the pandemic.
“If he was able to convey his thoughts with clarity to the world, all the more he should do the same to his own people at this time when they need hope and direction,” Recto said.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan expressed hope that the President’s strong pronouncement would be matched with strong actions, such as seeking support from the country’s ASEAN allies such as Indonesia and Vietnam, which have stood up to China and opposed its aggression in the disputed waters.
“We also hope he doesn’t change his mind and does a 180-degree turn moving forward,” he added.
Akbayan chair emeritus said Duterte’s invocation of the arbitral award was a victory for international law and Philippine sovereignty “against his own defeatist policy on China.”
“It is solid proof that the international community’s pressure for Mr. Duterte to submit to and recognize International law is working,” Rosales said.
“Yes, history was made, but not by Mr. Duterte, who should have done this a long time ago. History was made by the Filipino people, who, with the strong support of the international community, employed various political and diplomatic means to compel Mr. Duterte to do what is democratically appropriate,” she said.
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