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Ex-diplomats: Yasay should have pushed for inclusion of arbitration ruling in ASEAN statement

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and former Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. on Friday said Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay should have exerted more effort in convincing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to include the arbitration ruling in the regional group’s joint statement.

The traditional joint statement issued by the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers on July 25 after their meeting in Vientiane, Laos made no mention of the historic July 12 ruling handed down by the international arbitration tribunal on the maritime case filed by the Philippines against China in 2013.

The international tribunal ruled that was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within its so-called Nine-dash Lines Map that covers nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Del Rosario told reporters at the sidelines of the testimonial luncheon organized by the business community for Cuisia and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, "Ideally he [Yasay] should have stood strongly for promoting the arbitration ruling as being part of the final statement."

Del Rosario, however, admitted that it was difficult to issue a comment as he does not know the circumstances.

"It’s very difficult to make a comment unless you are President so I don't know what the circumstances were," he said.

In a separate interview, Cuisia said, “He (Yasay) should have encouraged ASEAN countries to come up with a statement.”

International law experts had said the ruling on the maritime case filed by the Philippines against China was a legal blow to Beijing's claims in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. 

“The ruling is recognized by many other major nations including the US, European Union, Japan, and so on. What’s wrong with saying we welcome this decision and we hope to work together with ASEAN in trying to get China to come up with a reasonable stance on this South China Sea issue?”

Cuisia expressed disappointment that ASEAN did not come out with a common statement on the matter.

“Why can’t ASEAN say that? Is it because we are so afraid to upset China? China has been bullying us for so many years, harassing our fishermen, intimidating our patrol aircraft and Navy. They have illegally built islands on three of the reefs which are part of our exclusive economic zone,” he said.

“Why are we so afraid to upset China? They have been the ones who have acted in a provocative manner. They have bullied nations like the Philippines and Vietnam,” he added.

ASEAN did not mention the ruling because “we precisely agreed to not mentioning the arbitral award,” Yasay said in earlier interviews. 

Cuisia said he was also surprised with the glum look of Yasay when he was stating the country’s reaction on the arbitration ruling.

“I was frankly surprised with the very glum look on the face of Secretary Yasay when he read the (statement). I said we should be very happy. We should not flaunt it (the victory), we should be magnanimous but we should be firm,” Cuisia said.

“We can have bilateral talks as long as we are treated fairly, treated with dignity, and that we are not bullied,” he added. — VVP, GMA News