Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Friday said President Duterte will leave a “shameful legacy” for squandering the 2016 Arbitral Award in favor of Chinese loans and investments which have “barely materialized to this day”.
Del Rosario raised this point in his opening remarks at the virtual forum “The South China Sea Arbitration As President Aquino’s Greatest Legacy” organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute.
“If securing the Award became the centerpiece of the foreign policy of the Aquino administration, the Award is the hallmark of shame for the Duterte administration given President Duterte’s efforts to undermine it since the start of his term to the prejudice of his countrymen,” the former DFA chief said.
Del Rosario recalled that when the Award was rendered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the start of President Duterte’s term in 2016, “there was already an order from Malacañang to ‘downplay’ the Award for fear of displeasing China”.
“We can see, in retrospect, how this event portended a treasonous policy of the Duterte administration of setting aside the Award,” he said.
He lamented that Duterte has chosen China over Filipinos “because he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping is protecting his Presidency in the Philippines.”
“This national treachery would require serious evidence were it not for President Duterte’s own admission in 2018 that he ‘loves Xi Jinping’ and his public declaration of Xi Jinping’s promise that Xi Jinping will not allow [President Duterte] to be taken out from…office…,” Del Rosario added.
In view of the forthcoming 2022 presidential elections, the former top Filipino diplomat said it is incumbent for Filipinos to “protect what is ours for the sake of our children and our country” by voting for leaders who will put Filipinos first before China, money and power.
The Arbitral Award, Del Rosario pointed out, will remain as one of the greatest legacies of President Aquino to the nation.
During the Aquino administration, he said the Philippines pursued a rules-based approach in the South China Sea dispute to convince China to respect the country’s rights and for China to comply with its obligations under international law.
As the centerpiece of the Aquino administration, the former DFA secretary who once served as the country’s envoy to the United States said the Award will continue to be a centerpiece of Philippine foreign and security policy for the next administrations.
“The South China Sea Dispute is an intergenerational challenge that will affect the lives of Filipinos and our Southeast Asian neighbors for decades to come,” he said.