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Regaining lost ground

The Department of Foreign Affairs recently said that the Philippines will assert the 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea issue at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

At the meeting, the foreign ministers will be discussing ASEAN priorities for cooperation in 2022, the process of building the ASEAN Community, the directions for ASEAN development for 2025, COVID-19 response, ASEAN external relations, ASEAN centrality, as well as other relevant regional and international issues.

“Secretary Manalo is expected to assert the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the arbitral award as the twin anchors of our actions and policies on the South China Sea,” said DFA Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Daniel Espiritu, referring to DFA chief Enrique Manalo.

On July 12, Manalo rejected attempts by China to undermine the ruling, saying the tribunal’s findings are “indisputable.”

Meanwhile, China has downplayed a warning by US officials of rising cases of Chinese provocations in the South China Sea targeting other states with maritime claims in the region. As usual, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the US officials’ remarks misrepresented the facts as the South China Sea is the common home of countries in the region. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did however admit “we are soberly aware that the South China Sea is not entirely tranquil.”

The Philippines both has a lost a lot of ground and needs to make up a lot of ground as far as its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea are concerned. Our government officials being more assertive when it comes to protecting our interests in that part of the world will be critical if the balance is to start shifting back towards our favor, as we face off against the regional bully who also happens to be a world superpower.

China has been actively seeking to expand its territory into areas that are indisputably ours, using all means available. It is high time we stopped the defeatist attitude and gather the resolve to stand up to the bully using all the means available to us as well.*

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