Former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario underscored the immense importance of respecting the 2016 ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal in approaching discussions about the Code of Conduct (CoC) on the South China Sea.
“What is crucial is the enforcement of the 2016 ruling, to uphold the rule of law. The CoC must be a mechanism of enforcing the arbitral tribunal [ruling] and not allow the CoC to undermine the arbitral ruling,” Del Rosario said during the inaugural Ambassador Rodolfo C. Severino Jr. organized by the Ateneo de Manila University.
Del Rosario, also the former Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States, reiterated the implications of the ruling, which invalidated what he characterized as China’s “dubious claim” of historic rights embodied by its nine-dash line claim.
He added that the CoC needs to be a mechanism that enables the enforcement of the arbitral ruling.
“With regard to the CoC on the South China Sea, the Philippines must be vigilant, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, too, must be collectively vigilant, we must prevent China from attaining its goal to supplant and undermine the ruling rendered by the UNCLOS tribunal,” Del Rosario noted.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea said that a CoC on the South China Sea is important, but instead of hoping for a sweeping agreement to be established soon, parties should be “more realistic and work on smaller accords” that can help de-escalate potential contentious situations.
“We need to change our objective from coming up with a comprehensive CoC and work towards incremental development of a series of agreements that eventually become the CoC in the future,” Batongbacal said.
Ambassador Severino was an alumnus of the Ateneo and was later regarded as one of the most respected diplomats in the country.
According to Ateneo President Fr. Roberto Yap, SJ, the lecture is an important venue where the public can learn and expand its critical understanding of ideas and issues beyond the borders of the country, especially now that the pandemic has really put into focus the interconnected of nations.
“It is our shared hope that these lectures as well as the research funded by the Amb. Severino endowment will help shape the decisions and actions of policymakers and leaders towards a future that is peaceful and just for all,” Yap said.