MANILA – The Philippines should reassume its leadership role in resolving the South China Sea dispute and exhaust all diplomatic channels to promote its arbitral victory over Beijing, former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Wednesday.
A year after Manila scored the landmark victory in The Hague, there had been no “restraint in China’s militarization and unlawful activities” in the West Philippines Sea, he told a forum.
The US-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative earlier reported the construction of more missile shelters and radar and communications facilities on artificial islands built by China.
“Leadership is not a mantle easily shed. Even today countries hope for us to lead from our position of strength,” said Del Rosario, who led Manila’s legal effort against Beijing.
“No other nation can support us more than we do ourselves and there can be no unity over the right course of action unless we initiate this unity.”
As this year’s chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Manila can steer discussions with Beijing on a legally binding code of conduct that could help manage tensions on the South China Sea.
But taking its cue from the Philippines, the regional bloc skipped mention of the arbitral ruling in the summit statement last April.
Del Rosario said the arbitral decision should be an “integral part” of a code of conduct.
“Our region cannot protect the rule of law while ignoring the rule of law as it stands,” he said.