WASHINGTON “What is ours is ours.
So said Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. on the Philippines’ claim to the South China Sea which was ruled overwhelmingly in its favor by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, 2016 – determining that key elements of China’s claim – including its nine-dash line, recent land reclamation and other activities in Philippine waters – were illegal.
“He can be taken from us stealthily or by force; yet this would in no way diminish our sovereign property. What is stolen cannot be lost by prescription, we insist. Brutal facts do not ripen into law,” Locsin said in his omnibus address at a working luncheon hosted by Vice President of the United States (U.S.) Kamala Harris on day two of the special summit. US-ASEAN at the State Department here on May 13.
He said that after winning the lawsuit against China in 2016, the Philippine government did not actively seek recognition from the international community so as not to undermine the victory.
“It would have undermined our entire victory by diluting its binding legal force with the apparent need for international acclaim and support. Victory is pure law,” he added.
As an archipelagic state, he said, the Philippines gives primacy to maritime freedom and security, first and foremost in its exclusive waters; whether territorial, EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) or continental shelf.
“Determining the latter requires work and cooperation within the UN and mutual consent in the affected regions of Southeast Asia,” Locsin added.
Stick to the arbitration award
He reiterated that when it comes to the EEZ, the Philippine government stands by the arbitration award it fought for and won on its own.
“… in the face of international indifference and external opposition from the world’s second economic and military power, which had disdained to settle our differences before the Arbitral Tribunal. And yet he objected; who failed to convince the Tribunal,” Locsin said.
An EEZ, as prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources , including the production of energy from water and wind. . It extends from the baseline up to 200 nautical miles from the coast of the State in question.
He cited Ukraine, which never lost its sovereignty over the areas occupied by the Russian aggressor.
“He can be beaten but never defeated. The broken country’s dream of taking back what was taken will never die. Opportunists argue that if it cannot be forcibly detained or otherwise effectively enforced, it is deemed surrendered,” he said. “A contrary view holds force as a universal law given the time and tenacity of the taker.”
He went on to say that the benefit of the arbitration award is not exclusive to the Philippines, however.
“The award provides legal clarity to all and is available to other countries with the same problematic maritime characteristics as ours. This benefits the whole world,” he added.
The United States is the most vocal partner
He thanked the United States for being the Philippines’ most active partner in reaffirming the 2016 arbitration award and maintaining a rules-based international order.
“We deeply appreciate that. We most certainly welcome the US Senate’s call for a common ASEAN approach to reaffirming the award. Thank you, America,” Locsin said.
He also thanked US President Joseph Biden Jr. for his congratulatory call to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The two, he said, agreed to continue working on maintaining our special relationship in mutual defense.
Meanwhile, he added that President Rodrigo R. Duterte chose not to attend the Special US-ASEAN Summit due to his strong commitment to the Filipino people to ensure free and fair elections, demonstrating his commitment to the Philippine government’s adherence to democratic principles.
Biden hosted the summit on May 12-13, which was attended by 10 ASEAN leaders from the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. .
Held for the first time, the U.S.-Asean summit discussions focused on strengthening U.S.-Asean ties, digital economy, sustainability, clean energy transition, economic cooperation, healthcare and supply chain resilience, among others. (NAP)