VP Robredo urges Filipinos to oppose military build-ups in South China Sea
Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday urged Filipinos and concerned nations to unite in opposing military build-ups in the South China Sea.
“This is the time for us to peacefully protest any effort to limit or control movement in these waters. As neighbors and friends, we must stand in opposition to military build-ups in the West Philippine Sea,” Robredo said in a forum organized by Stratbase Institute.
“Our vision is this: that we stop taking for granted the fact that a coalition with our neighboring countries can emerge as a real power. We must explore the possibilities for Asean and other means of regional cooperation in ways we have never done before,” Robredo said.
Thursday’s forum was held exactly two years since the international court in The Hague handed down a landmark ruling favoring the Philippines.
Ruling on a case brought by the Philippines, the court declared China’s nine-dash-line claims in the strategic waterway as invalid.
The ruling came down on July 12, 2016, less than two weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016.
Duterte did not enforce the ruling and chose to set it aside in favor of economic aid and investments.
China also refused to acknowledge the decision and continued asserting its claims in the entire South China Sea.
This year, China made bolder activities with the deployment of bombers, military transport planes, anti-ship and anti-missile platforms, and communications jamming equipment.
PH ‘lost its advantage’
Robredo lamented that the Philippines “lost its advantage” when the country failed to enforce the ruling.
“Our hard-won victory was a victory of the rule of law and the UNCLOS [United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea] framework, and provides the foundation for all future engagements in the West Philippine Sea. It also sets the stage for peacefully reclaiming a massive resource, much bigger than our archipelago’s total land area,” the Vice President said.
Robredo cited the US and Japan’s joint statement saying that diplomatic efforts should lead to demilitarization of the area.
In April this year, G7 Foreign Ministers also expressed strong opposition to unilateral actions that escalate tensions in the region.
Robredo said, “Such a unified position would do much to preserve peace over Southeast Asia and the world—hopefully reminding China that, like us, its should stand true to its word and work towards the preservation of peace and stability that enables all our citizens to live more peaceful, more dignified, more productive lives.”
She acknowledged that “there are countries in the world that dwarf other countries” but the rule of law ensures that even on the global stage, there is equality and inclusivity.
“Such rules and norms based on the consent of all, rather than dictated by the power of any country, are the very foundation of global peace….This is why our nations must come together to establish such a system, with an urgency befitting an issue as critical as the West Philippine Sea. This is what we must strive for; this is why we will persist,” she said. /vvp
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