By Roy Mabasa
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Friday said defending what is “ours” against a powerful nation as China could be “chaotic.”
Del Rosario was reacting to the comments made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who was recently quoted as saying that the Aquino administration “mismanaged the sea dispute with China and that everything was chaotic.”
“Chaos is often looked upon as being negative and destructive, but it can also be looked upon as positive and constructive. It was chaotic when in the past we fought for our independence; it was also chaotic when we defended our democracy,” Del Rosario said in a statement.
The former DFA official also took exception of Lorenzana’s comparison that President Duterte was handling the Philippine maritime row in the South China Sea “very well.”
Del Rosario said the Aquino administration defended what belongs to the country by resorting to political and diplomatic means while utilizing both bilateral and multilateral approaches to seek a peaceful resolution.
“That government (Aquino) did everything possible, which as a last resort included bringing our dispute to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague, resulting in an overwhelming victory for the Filipino people,” he said.
In contrast, he noted that the Duterte administration, after being awarded the landmark victory immediately announced the shelving of the ruling, “avoiding for itself the task of managing what had been handed down.”
Del Rosario, who once served as Philippine ambassador to the US, had worked with Lorenzana when the latter was posted as the country’s veterans representative to the US capital.
In the statement, Del Rosario outlined the “illustrations of chaos” pertaining to several key actions taken by the previous administration in pursuit of a just and peaceful solution to the maritime dispute. This includes his meetings with then Chinese Vice Premier Xi Jinping and with top leaders of China’s foreign ministry; meetings with officials of the United States; the Scarborough agreement; meetings with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the global campaign including United Nations resolutions; the filing of the case before the arbitral tribunal, and discussions of joint patrol with the United States.
He recalled that during his meeting with now President Xi Jinping, Del Rosario said the Chinese leader strongly asserted Beijing’s indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea through its so-called “nine-dash line” map and even refused to acknowledge the existence of a dispute.
Del Rosario remembered conveying to the Chinese leader the Philippine position that nine-dash line was an excessive claim. The UN-backed tribunal invalidated China’s nine-dash claim in its July 12, 2016 ruling.
“In dealing with this powerful nation, we were being asked to acquiesce, but we did not. If this is being deemed as chaos, so be it,” the former DFA chief said.
On the April 2012 impasse at the Scarborough Shoal with China, Del Rosario recalled it was the United States, an “honest broker,” who approached the Philippines to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of ships from the shoal to avoid further escalation.
“We therefore agreed. At the appointed time, we withdrew, whereas China did not – in violation of our agreement,” he said.
In late 2015 or few months before he left office, Del Rosario said he traveled to Washington, DC a couple of times to seek further assistance in terms of responding to China’s unlawful activities in the South China Sea.
“To my recollection, we had successfully convinced the State Department to undertake joint patrols which were subsequently objected to as instructed by President Duterte’s government,” he said.