Setting aside the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on the Philippines’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea will be an unmitigated setback for our country and people.
Perhaps the Duterte officials concerned did not realize how foolhardy and irresponsible it is for the Duterte government to adopt such a policy, given the history of the dispute and the trials we went through to secure this favorable ruling.
In contrast, our retreat will mean an incontrovertible triumph for China, a case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, which it will surely parade as vindication of its questionable claims.
When the Hague court handed down its award last July 12, the entire country rejoiced as one over the declarative Filipino victory. And the world rejoiced with us, praised Filipino determination, and unanimously hailed the verdict because of its forthright stand on the side of international law, and the calm and clarity that it introduced into the increasingly confused situation in the disputed sea.
Since then tensions in the disputed waters have not abated, because of China’s continued buildup—including fortifications– in its artificial islands and insistence on its claims. Just this week China and the US found themselves in a standoff because China confiscated a US drone, in waters that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
President Duterte would betray the nation and the consensus of international opinion by announcing that we are turning our back on the verdict, and that we no longer care about the rights that it confers on us.
What we get in return for retreat is only the theoretical goodwill of China, the Chinese on the Mainland and perhaps the few pro-PRC Filipinos of Chinese descent and China’s possible approval of a gift package of economic and financial assistance to our country.
This is too pecuniary and meretricious a reason for an about- face in policy. We lose face and gain little.
If adopted, it will diminish our country in the eyes of the international community. And it will dampen and discourage international support for any future initiative that we will undertake in international affairs.
Regardless of the fact that it was the previous government and the Liberal Party that brought and argued the dispute before the Hague court, the government and the people have a joint responsibility to honor and defend the verdict, because national interest is involved and paramount.
Decisions such as this bad proposed stand on the Hague tribunal ruling require long, careful, and expert study. It should not be left to the President to decide alone, but rather submitted to determination by consultation. This is why we have a full-fledged Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and a National Security Council (NSC).