TWO DIPLOMATS of the previous Aquino administration on Friday lashed out at Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. for his supposedly weak stance on China, saying Manila should have insisted on a stronger statement on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute during the recent meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Laos.
Outgoing Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. told a meeting of businessmen he had the impression the Philippine delegation did not push hard for the inclusion of the July 12 ruling of an international tribunal in favor of the Philippines in the Asean joint communiqué.
“Why are we so scared of not including the ruling in the joint communiqué? Are we scared for China to get upset?” he asked. “They have been the ones who have acted in a provocative manner. They have bullied nations like the Philippines and Vietnam,” Cuisia said at the sidelines of the Makati Business Club’s testimonial luncheon for him and outgoing US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on Friday.
Yasay declined to comment and said he wanted Cuisia to first confirm his criticisms in writing.
Yasay earlier said he “vigorously” pushed for the inclusion of the arbitral award in the Asean statement but knew there was “middle ground.”
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague nullified China’s claims in South China Sea, upholding the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that gives the Philippines the right to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario echoed Cuisia’s sentiments.
“[Yasay] should have stood strongly,” he said. “Ideally, we should have stood strongly in promoting the arbitration ruling as being part of the final statement.”
In Laos early this week, foreign ministers of the 10-member regional bloc only expressed serious concern over recent developments in the South China Sea that have “eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”
China allegedly attempted to block any mention of the verdict through its close ally Cambodia.
Cuisia said the Duterte administration was correct “not to taunt and flaunt” the favorable ruling but said the government must be firm in protecting Philippine rights.
“It seems our interest is not really being very strongly protected,” he claimed.