We have lost a great statesman and a true patriot in the passing of former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Albert F. del Rosario.
His ambassadorial career has been an exemplar of leadership and patriotism that demonstrated his uncompromising commitment to uphold the interests of our country amidst the complex geopolitical dynamics we now face.
His passing has shocked our nation and the global diplomatic community which he has skillfully engaged with excellence, courage, and honor.
Ambassador Del Rosario leaves a roster of legacies that are of profound impact to our country’s national security.
Against all odds, he led the Philippines to victory in the historic case lodged before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague which delivered a unanimous verdict that scathingly rejected China’s expansive “nine dash line” claim of roughly 85 percent of the South China Sea.
The decision declared the claim as having no basis in international law and that China has violated Philippine territorial rights.
The decision reaffirmed the Philippines’ territorial claims covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and became a catalyst for the emergence of an Indo-Pacific alliance of nations that have committed to maintain the stability and regime of co-prosperity under a rules-based international order.
China has expectedly refused to recognize the decision and continues to disrespect international law with persistent acts of aggression and militarization in the South China Sea.
The level of tension has now escalated to a disturbing display of military technologies from opposing superpower forces reminiscent of the deterrence strategies of the cold war era.
Adherence to the rules-based international order has always been the cornerstone of Ambassador Del Rosario’s advocacy.
He staunchly espoused this principle as foundational to peace, security, and stability that has promoted an unprecedented era of economic growth in the Indo-Pacific.
Almost seven years alter the arbitral victory, the possibility of conflict is frightening prospect that our government must carefully navigate and prepare for.
Ambassador Del Rosario in one of his insightful statements said, “The possibility of conflict is always present. Our country must continuously build its capabilities to preserve national security and contribute to regional security.
“In doing so, leveraging on our alliances, and expanding our diplomatic networks is a step towards maintaining peace and stability.
“Complementing this, our policies and strategies must be formulated in the name of an independent foreign policy that prioritizes the interests of the country and of the Filipino people.”
In the context of the West Philippine Sea, he has recommended to: 1) Consolidate the support of other countries which believe in the Arbitral Ruling and the Rule of Law, 2) Make China accountable for the environmental destruction in the West Philippine Sea and its blatant disregard of Philippine sovereignty, and 3) Build a minimum credible defense posture to protect our national territory.
I had the honor of closely working with him on some of his speeches and public statements and witnessed his heroic passion and boldness of spirit to fight for the rights and welfare of the country.
His work attitude is legendary.
His character is an epitome of dignity and integrity presented in the most gentlemanly manner and elegant eloquence is the perfect package for the perfect diplomat which has been internationally recognized with the highest honors.
To mention a few, he was conferred the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu for his outstanding efforts in promoting foreign relations for the Philippines and the Order of Lakandula with a Rank of Grand Cross (Bayani) for his role as Co-Chair of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
He received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun from Emperor Naruhito of Japan in November 2022 in recognition of his key role in building a strategic partnership in Japan-Philippines bilateral relationship particularly in strengthening maritime security relations to ensure the safety of ships navigating around Philippine waters.
The power and boldness of his statements are lessons in diplomacy that resonates strong and clear to the subject of his messages and at the same time asserts the honor of the Philippine nation.
He called Beijing a “bully” and called on Filipinos to stand up to uphold the rule of law to prevent bullies from having their ways,
“If the rule of law is not adhered to, you will have chaos and anarchy. It will be the rule of law versus the rule of the jungle.
“The West Philippine Sea is ours” and “we do not need China’s consent or permission to use our own resources in the West Philippine Sea.”
We must sustain Ambassador Albert del Rosario’s mission to safeguard our national security amidst the current challenges in the Indo-Pacific.
If we want peace to endure, we must take a firm stand to preserve the rule of law in the international system.