By Roy Mabasa
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Tuesday said it is in the best interest of the Philippines to file a protest against China regarding the landing of Chinese nuclear-capable H-6K bomber on contested areas in the South China Sea.
Del Rosario was reacting to the recent statement made by officials of the current administration that the Philippines did not protest the landing issue because it happened outside the country’s territory.
“Granted that there is a divergence of views on responding to the developments in the South China Sea, the landing of bombers in Woody Island serves, at the very least, to raise tensions and destabilize our region,” Del Rosario said in a statement sent to the Manila Bulletin.
Del Rosario was the DFA chief when the Philippines filed in January 2013 an arbitration case against China’sclaim of historic rights to resources within the ‘nine-dash line” that covers nearly the entire South China Sea including parts of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague invalidated China’s claims over the South China Sea. The landmark ruling also stated that China violated international law in constructing artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The former DFA secretary maintained It is in the country’s interest to file a protest “as we should be endeavoring to galvanize the support of countries that, like the Philippines, are strongly opposed to the militarization of the South China Sea.”
On the question of territory lost during the incumbency of the current administration, Del Rosario said the country lost control of Sandy Cay in late 2017 when President Duterte ordered the cessation of construction due to vehement reaction from China.
He insisted that under the country’s Baseline Law, Sandy Cay is within the territorial sea of Pag-Asa and Pag-Asa is a Philippine territory.
Del Rosario pointed out that Chinese coast guard vessels have since then surrounded Sandy Cay at all times, effectively seizing physical control of Sandy Cay from the Philippines.
“I think that a very strong protest then should have been filed,” he said.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary admitted that the Philippines silently filed a note verbale over the installation of missiles in the Spratly Islands and the alleged harassment of a Philippine Navy rubber boat on May 11 while resupplying its troops in Ayungin Shoal.