Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario debunked continuing allegations from the Duterte administration that he should be held accountable for allowing the Philippine Navy ship to withdraw from Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal during the 2012 standoff.
In a statement, Del Rosario explained that as foreign affairs secretary, his mandate was in the conduct of diplomacy and foreign relations and his position was “not part” of the chain of command that is present in the military, the Navy and the Coast Guard.
“Thus, in the 2012 Scarborough Standoff, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs has no authority to order the withdrawal of ships from Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
What is more important, according to the former top diplomat, is no Filipino is to blame for having the word of honor in following the United States-brokered agreement for the two sides to withdraw and peacefully leave the Scarborough Shoal.
He recalled the Philippines withdrew one or two of its ships from Scarborough Shoal while China deceitfully breached the United States-brokered agreement by not withdrawing their more than 30 ships.
Del Rosario said China occupied the Scarborough Shoal and breached the agreement based on its highly questionable claim of ownership of the shoal.
In order to peacefully and legally settle this question once and for all, the former secretary said the Philippines did its best to bring China before an arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2013, that eventually led to the July 2016 arbitral award in favor of the Philippine petition.
At the height of the standoff, Del Rosario said the United States only became a mediator “after we realized the futility of bilateral talks with China.”
During the standoff, he added that the Philippine government was consistently engaging with then Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“After days of seemingly endless talks, we were made to realize that we were talking to a wall and China would never leave Scarborough Shoal. Thus, a third party—the US—entered the picture to help resolve the standoff in Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
Del Rosario maintained that China should be blamed for its “duplicity” as it remains the illegal occupant of Scarborough shoal, a continuing and open violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.
With only a year left in office, Del Rosario called on President Duterte not to waste his remaining period in Malacañang blaming fellow Filipinos regarding the 2012 Scarborough Shoal episode but instead fulfill what the Constitution mandates him to do: Enforce the arbitral award and protect the West Philippine Sea “for the sake of the future generations of Filipinos.”