The Philippines was one of the 51 states that co-founded the United Nations in 1945 and Filipino statesman Carlos P. Romulo played a significant role in its first decade as he served as President of the General Assembly and of the Security Council. In 1964, the Philippines was one of the co-founders of the G-77 coalition that was established to promote the economic interests of UN member-states.
From 1971 to 2000, the Philippines was noted to be a “prolonged user” of resources of the UN’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) to achieve economic stabilization after episodes of recession and high level of external indebtedness. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, both UN entities, have also enabled major Philippine development programs.
Other UN bodies that have offices in the Philippines include, among others, the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In 2013, Filipino soldiers figured in a high-profile incident in the Golan Heights in Syria while conducting UN peacekeeping operations. A year later, a similar peacekeeping mission in Liberia had to be pulled out in view of the Ebola virus outbreak.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to afflict thousands of Filipinos, the United Nations’ presence in the country assumes greater significance. The World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific region is headquartered in Manila thereby giving the country an edge in terms of access to latest health updates, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Advisories on how to deal with latest variants of the virus are readily available; likewise, guidance on vital health and safety protocols are immediately communicated and disseminated. Relatedly, the ILO office in Manila has also been conducting rapid assessment studies on the impact of the pandemic on migrant workers who form a vital backbone of the country’s productive work force and whose remittances have supported millions of families for nearly five decades.
Application of global best practices on COVID-19 disease treatment and management are pivotal in enabling the reopening of the economy and the return to normalcy in the education sector.
On the national security front, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has provided the legal underpinnings for the Philippines — and ASEAN member countries — to continually assert the importance of allowing freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and adjacent waters.
In 2016, the Philippines scored a major victory in the arbitral tribunal in The Hague that debunked the nine-dash line theory invoked by China.
In a speech to the UN general assembly in 2020, President Duterte said that the arbitral award in 2016 “is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon.” Let the United Nations continue to be a bulwark for the enforcement of the rule of law and a stronghold for the flourishing of freedom that would enable the attainment of humanity’s Sustainable Development Goals.