President Duterte’s speech at the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week has actually opened the doors for wider and more constructive engagements with all stakeholders in the South China Sea, Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Borje said.
Borje made the assessment after the President asserted the Philippines’ rights over the disputed waters during the UNGA on September 23.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Borje said the intended outcome of the President’s speech is to signal the call for deeper and broader engagement by the Philippines with all the partners around the world on several key points.
“What is encouraging is it opened discussions on multilateral diplomacy,” he told “The Source” on Wednesday.
“The President is actually laying down the platform for the Philippines’ continuous engagement with the United Nations. Part of that, too, is a solemn reflection of what the United Nations can do to re-advance the causes that it is mandated to implement,” he added.
According to Borje, one good thing about the President’s speech last week is that it showed that the Philippines is not just an observer when it comes to global issues.
“[It signaled] that the Philippines is not just on the sidelines. The Philippines has this role, it doesn’t simply have to always agree with what’s the general sentiment in a general debate,” he said.
“It can actually have principled decisions and it can have fiscalizing roles, speaking on the issues of, for instance, the South China Sea, the situation of migrant workers especially the Rohingyas, the issue on climate change, and calling on developed nations to do their part as well,” he added.
Borje also noted that the entire world actually listened to what President Duterte had to say at the UNGA.
“I personally feel that the world listened and the Philippines listened to what the Philippines had to say about issues concerning the Philippines that’s connected with the entire world,” he said.
“What he’s saying is that there are many issues we have to work on. There are reforms that are needed at the UN to make things happen. The Philippines is also a responsible member of the international community willing to work with anyone and everyone in order to achieve collective goals,” he added.
Borje reiterated that the issue on the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of the Philippines’ bilateral relations with China.
“Just because you disagree doesn’t mean that you’re unable to construct, reengage with stakeholders like China,” he said.
“For example, for other stakeholders in the South China Sea such as Vietnam, there’s still engagement with China and this takes on many different forms including economic cooperation,” he added.
Despite this, Borje said that the President has been consistent in his stand regarding the issue on the disputed waters and that he stayed true to his word that he will assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea at the right place and time.
“The President has been consistent on his stand. If you were with the President during the many engagements with ASEAN, he has made this clear that the Philippines does push for the Arbitral Decision,” he said.
“The Philippines has its own principled position and it is at this time, specifically, at the United Nations General Assembly, that this becomes clear because it is the first time that the President spoke at the General Assembly,” he added.