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Philippines
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Towards a rules-based int’l order

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“The Philippines is determined to be a force for the good, a force for peace, a champion of regional and global unity, and a staunch defender of the rules-based international order”

IT’S good that in his keynote address at the 21st International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 31, 2024, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. laid down in broad strokes the nation’s stand on current regional issues and concerns.

As he is chief architect of our foreign policy, he is in the best position to articulate the Philippine government’s official position on this matter.

Here’s what we gathered from his remarks.

One, the Philippines will stand on the frontlines of efforts to assert the integrity of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, as a Constitution of the Oceans.

We have defined our territory and maritime zones in a manner befitting a responsible and law-abiding member of the international community.

We have submitted our assertions to rigorous legal scrutiny by the world’s leading jurists.

So, the lines that we draw on our waters are not derived from just our imagination, but from international law.

In this solid footing and through our clear moral ascendancy, we find the strength to do whatever it takes to protect our sovereign home—to the last square inch, to the last square millimeter.

Our efforts stand in stark contrast to assertive actions that aim to propagate excessive and baseless claims through force, intimidation, and deception.

Two, the Philippines will not only be unyielding in protecting our patrimony, our rights, and our dignity as a proud and as a free country.

We will also be firm in our commitment to regional and global peace.

Amidst challenging global tides, an important ballast stabilizes our common vessel: An open, inclusive, and rules-based international order that is governed by international law and informed by the principles of equity and of justice.

We reject unjust narratives that seek to subsume distinct national interests into so-called ‘major country’ dynamics, which seek to impose a hierarchy amongst nations.

Three, the Philippines supports ASEAN’s efforts to build a rules-based, people-oriented, and [people-centered] regional community.

Any state that professes a stake in the continued peace and stability of this region must respect ASEAN Centrality not only with words, but with action.

All partnerships and arrangements must never displace or dilute, but rather uphold and complement ASEAN’s central role…We reaffirm our common understanding of how international law governs the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Amidst misleading narratives that seek to discredit international legal procedures, there is a need to reaffirm that those modalities are an expression of good faith.

They are a service to the progressive development and codification of international law. They are never an unfriendly act.

Four, Filipinos will not be mere bystanders to unfolding world events.

We are the actors that drive those events.

We are the main characters in our collective story.

We are the owners of the narratives of our regional community.

China’s determining influence over the security situation and the economic evolution of this region is a permanent fact.

At the same time, the stabilizing presence of the United States is crucial to regional peace. It’s never a choice. Both countries are important.

The continued stability of this region requires China and the United States to manage that rivalry in a responsible manner.

Five, the economic security of East Asia depends upon the freedom of navigation and unimpeded passage in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea, and the stability of the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait.

By virtue of geographic proximity and the presence of Filipinos in Taiwan, we have a legitimate interest in cross-Strait issues.

The Filipino people have a long history of fraternal bonds with the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

And seven, any effort to resolve maritime differences in the East China Sea and the South China Sea must be anchored on international law, particularly UNCLOS.

We must accord due regard to the legitimate interest of all parties, and respect legally-settled rights.

We cannot afford any other future for the South China Sea other than the one envisioned by ASEAN: That of a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity.

Unfortunately, this vision remains for now a distant reality.

Illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions continue to violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdictions.

Attempts to apply domestic laws and regulations beyond one’s territory and jurisdiction violate international law, exacerbate tensions, and undermine regional peace and security.

The President’s speech ends with a clear call: Peace and stability must prevail, and all parties must exercise restraint on the issue.

The Philippines is determined to be a force for the good, a force for peace, a champion of regional and global unity, and a staunch defender of the rules-based international order.

(Email: ernhil@yahoo.com)

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