Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her regret over “five years of missed opportunities” as the country marked this year’s anniversary of the Philippines’ arbitration ruling against China on its territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) granted a "unanimous award" to the Philippines five years ago today on July 12, 2016, in response to the country’s request for clarification on its rights to use its exclusive economic zone, portions of which are claimed by China.
In a statement she issued today, Robredo underscored the Duterte administration’s failure to utilize the decision in order to advance the country's national interests.
Robredo said that the ruling will undeniably go down in history “despite the unending lies spewed forth by a formidable machinery of disinformation."
"Today’s commemoration is a reminder, a challenge, and a promise: That if only we can remember, if only we can unite, if only we can rediscover our spirit and once again stand for what is right – we will find, beneath the rubble of cowardice and neglect, our courage, our dignity, and our national pride," she said.
"Filing the case before the tribunal – standing up for what is right, against the economic and military might of a world power – yielded the admiration and respect of the entire world."
Robredo argued that the Philippine government should use this arbitral victory to collaborate with other countries dealing with similar difficulties in the disputed waters.
She also expressed disappointment that Filipino fishermen experience harassment within the country's exclusive economic zone. "Our fisherfolk remain unable to enter areas that have been the source of livelihood for generations of Filipinos," she said.
In her weekly program on radio DZXL last Sunday, Robredo said the anniversary of the verdict should "remind" the administration to fight for the country's sovereignty and fishermen's rights.
“Pagpapaalala ‘yong fifth anniversary bukas na mayroon tayong pinaglalaban pa, na marami tayong mga kababayan na nakabase doon ‘yong kanilang hanapbuhay,” she said. (The fifth anniversary of the arbitral ruling tomorrow reminds us that we have so many things to fight for. We have country men who rely on the sea for a living.)
“Yung pagkapanalo natin, makasaysayan ‘yon. Tayo ‘yong pinakaunang bansa na dinala ang China to arbitration,” she said. “Ito ay may epekto hindi lang sa atin, pero may epekto ito sa lahat ng may claims over sa South China Sea saka sa West Philippine Sea.”
(Our historic win – as the first country who brought China to arbitration – will not only affect us but every country who has claims on South China Sea or West Philippine Sea as well.)
She also interviewed a fisherman named Ernie Egana who was harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard. "Tuwing madaling araw, umaakyat po sila sa bangka namin, hinahalungkay nila ang isdang huli namin. Tapos, lahat ng magagandang isda, kinukuha nila. Pagkatapos, palitan na lang po nila ng isang Maggi at isang boteng alak," Ergana said.
(Every midnight, they would go to our boat and rummage through our catch. They would get all good fish, and then will give us instant noodles and one bottle of alcoholic drink.)
China has increased its military presence in the disputed sea, notwithstanding the arbitration court's verdict.
Ana Catalina Paje is a development journalist passionate about grassroots communication geared towards genuine social change. She also writes about showbiz, lifestyle, and all things Pinoy pride. The views expressed are her own.
You may also be interested with: