As the country marked last Friday the third anniversary of the ruling by the arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands on the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea, we cannot ignore the rising sounds of protest against China’s growing sway in the Philippines.
Before the weekend, two prominent and unswerving advocates raised once again their vibrant voices the government must assert the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea, on the third anniversary of the Philippines’ victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China’s nine-dash line claim.
We share their sentiments and of millions of others the Duterte administration has done “absolutely nothing” to enforce the 2016 arbitral award.
The statements by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario at a forum Friday on the West Philippine Sea followed a new survey which showed nine out of 10 Filipinos believe the government should assert the country’s rights to the disputed islands.
Carpio himself said, “The (Philippine government’s) claim that enforcing the arbitral award means going to war with China, a war the Philippines will surely lose, is utterly false claim, designed to intimidate the Filipino people to submit to the will of China.”
For his part, Del Rosario has underlined his lament that the Duterte administration has done nothing to implement the arbitral award and instead allowed China to deprive the Filipinos of what is theirs by continuing to shelve the tribunal’s decision.
Del Rosario said the Philippines is “still succumbing to threats of force including threat of war (and) war is not even a good option for China” since its economy is heavily dependent on global trade.
Parallel to the rising concern and sentiments in Metro Manila, notably expressed by rallyists in front of the Chinese consulate, and elsewhere as gathered by the new survey, is the statement by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, saying it is standing by its petition with the Supreme Court seeking to compel the government to protect the marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.
Manila must make the step now. Not tomorrow.