The bigger picture

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Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario lashed out anew at the Duterte administration for not enforcing the ruling the Philippines won in the international court of arbitration regarding disputed territories.

According to Del Rosario, the country has become “a willing victim” of China for its alleged failure to take advantage of the Philippines’ position on the West Philippine Sea to “develop and obtain the support of many countries whose principles are aligned with our own.”

Del Rosario said, “the government has persisted in allowing China to deprive our citizens of what is theirs by continuing to ignore the international court’s decision. President Duterte even chose to set aside the ruling in favor of economic aid and investments, he added.

The former foreign affairs chief also lambasted China for being a “bully” and a “grand larcenist” for its “unlawful activities” that include the blocking of the development of the Philippines’ natural resources, destroying the marine environment and the construction of military bases in the disputed waterway.

But with all the rantings of Del Rosario and the rest of the critics of President Duterte, one question remains: Will it hurt the country if the administration momentarily set aside the arbitral ruling to focus on the Philippines’ progress?

Duterte, however, had assured the people he would address the issue at the right time and while he is not acting on it as of the moment, the President recognizes the gains of the arbitral award, saying he wants the totality of the West Philippine Sea settled under the rule of law and pursuant to the binding norms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Apparently, Del Rosario and other critics of Duterte are not seeing or refusing to see the bigger picture.

The President had amassed billions of dollars worth of investment pledges from China alone to fund the government’s “Build, Build, Build” campaign and the warming relations between the two countries are opening up opportunities that will provide the solid backbone for growth.

Not only that, the deepening relationship between Manila and Beijing also paved the way for the Philippines to have trade and investments with other countries such as Russia, which the previous administrations had not accomplished during their terms.

If Del Rosario and the critics refuse to acknowledge the strides of the Duterte administration and continue to rant on the “inaction” of the President, then by all means, they can file cases before the courts.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace welcomes those who were planning to file a case before the Supreme Court to compel the Department of Foreign Affairs to release to the public its diplomatic actions against China’s militarization in the disputed sea.

“It’s a free country, they can file it. And we will meet them in court. I do not know what else they want,” Roque said. “I’m not sure what they mean by enforcing an arbitral decision because an arbitral decision is binding on parties thereto.”

“It clearly underscores the fact that some individuals, including the former (Secretary) of Foreign Affairs, do not fully comprehend the nature of arbitration,” he added.

The final award in the Philippines versus China arbitration was the most anticipated decision of any international court or tribunal in the area of the law of the sea, so make no mistake about it: The Duterte administration is not abandoning the country’s claims to the West Philippine Sea.

We see the bigger picture. We’re hoping critics would see it, too.

p: wjg

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