Del Rosario, Carpio, Morales: Raise Arbitral ruling at UNGA 2020

Three former government luminaries who are in the forefront of promoting Philippine interests in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea have reiterated their appeal to the Duterte administration to raise the 2016 Arbitral Ruling at the 75th regular session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Sept. 15 to help the country enforce the award.

“We, Filipinos, must not waste this chance to be heard. Having lost so many opportunities by the shelving of the Arbitral Ruling since 2016, it is now in our highest national interest to bring this Ruling on the South China Sea to the UNGA,” said former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in a joint statement issued over the weekend.

With the expected leaders of 193 countries in attendance, they said the UNGA is when states, big and small, will have a full window to be heard in the global community.

They disagreed with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s opinion that bringing the Arbitral Ruling to the UNGA is to “re-litigate” a case that is already won.

“Bringing the Arbitral Ruling to the UNGA is not re-litigating the case. It is enforcing what we already won. As international law does not have a world policeman, it is up to us to enforce the Arbitral Ruling by rallying other countries to our lawful position. If we do not help ourselves, how can we expect other countries to help us?” they said.

On Locsin’s assertion that bringing the Arbitral Ruling to the UNGA is futile since Beijing has the numbers on the floor of the international body, the three former officials, on the contrary, believes that “the odds are stacked against China in this dispute.”

“Our Arbitral Ruling was made under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In the long run, how can 145 littoral states of 193 UN-member nations vote against their national interests by going against UNCLOS which grants them considerable maritime areas and resources they previously did not enjoy? How can naval powers like the United States, United Kingdom, France, and others not support UNCLOS which upholds their freedom of navigation and overflight around the world? This simple logic should not be lost on us,” they said.

They stressed that the coming UNGA meet in September is the “penultimate chance” of President Duterte to fulfill his promise to bring and raise the South China Sea ruling at a “proper time.”

If raised this year, they believed it will enable the Philippines to work both “multilaterally and bilaterally” in preparation for UNGA 2021 “when our chances will have significantly been improved.”