Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is being pressed to rally support from members of the United Nations to enforce the international arbitral tribunal’s ruling in favour of the Philippines against China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.
Two retired Supreme Court justices and a former foreign secretary in a statement said now is the time to bring the country’s national interest before the UN.
“We, Filipinos, must not waste this chance to be heard,” former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales said in a joint statement.
“Having lost so many opportunities by the shelving of the arbitral ruling since 2016, it is now in our highest national interest to bring this ruling on the South China Sea to the UNGA (UN General Assembly),” they said.
The 75th regular session of the General Assembly will open on Sept. 1 and that is where big and small states will have “a full window to be heard,” they said.
“When President Duterte decided to shelve the arbitral ruling, he also promised the Filipino people to raise the ruling at a ‘proper time.’ This coming September is his penultimate chance to fulfil his promise to the Filipino people,” the three former senior officials said.
The 2016 arbitral ruling invalidated China’s claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
Beijing rejected the tribunal’s decision and fortified the artificial islands it had built, complete with soldiers’ barracks, airfields and missile launchers.
Del Rosario, Morales and Carpio said they believed that “the odds are stacked against China in this dispute” as the arbitral ruling was made under the auspices of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
But Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had already rejected Del Rosario’s proposal to bring the arbitral ruling to the United Nations, saying “it doesn’t make sense.”
“We won it already, why would you want to relitigate something that you won?” Locsin said in July.
He reiterated his position on Friday in an interview with CNN Philippines, saying the Philippines will lose the vote because China would be able to win to its side the many small countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, which is a large voting bloc in the United Nations, with promises of development projects.
“I will completely ignore his suggestion that we bring this to the United Nations, the arbitral award, because when you win something, you do not appeal your victory,” Locsin said.
“This is what Del Rosario wants me to do but I can’t. Because once you throw it to the United Nations, I’m afraid China has the numbers there and it’s about numbers. It’s not about law.”
In response to Locsin’s statement, Del Rosario and the retired justices said the country would not be retrying the arbitral case but “enforcing what we already won.”
“As international law does not have a world policeman, it is up to us to enforce the arbitral ruling by rallying other countries to our lawful position. If we do not help ourselves, how can we expect other countries to help us?” they said.
They said raising the arbitral ruling at the UN was also “the will of the Filipino people,” as surveys showed that eight out of 10 Filipinos believe that the maritime dispute should be brought to the United Nations.
“Our government must listen to its people. We therefore appeal to our country’s leadership to kindly be there for us,” they said. “There is no politics here—only our will to do what is right, to protect what is ours and to defend ourselves against the persistent bullying and duplicity by China.”
They said that “the Philippines has the strongest position among all nations to bring the South China Sea issue to the fore.” (Source: INQUIRER.net)