Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to implement once and for all the 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines against China over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement issued during a radio interview on Saturday, Del Rosario said that amid Chinese actions in the disputed area, the President should now "unshelf" the arbitral ruling and discuss with China on how to enforce it.
"What is currently notable is that Beijing is now clearly revisiting its excessive and unlawful claim in the South China Sea that has been ruled upon by the arbitral tribunal, which ruling is now an integral part of international law," Del Rosario said.
"At the same time, amid aggression and aggressive moves by our northern neighbor in such areas of Pag-asa, in other areas and in other issues, it may be the right time to unshelf our arbitral outcome enabling our SFA [Secretary of Foreign Affairs] to develop recommendations to our President for his consideration," he added.
Del Rosario spearheaded the filing of the landmark Philippine government arbitration case that challenged the validity of China's sprawling territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea and sought to clarify the territorial entitlements of certain Chinese-occupied features under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines won this case against China in July 2016.
Last month, Del Rosario, along with former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, once again took to court China's aggressions in the West Philippines by suing Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials for allegedly committing crimes against humanity over the territorial dispute.
"Mr. President, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and I believe that we think the time is now that we should unshelf the arbitral tribunal [ruling] and sit down with China for its enforcement," Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario also suggested that the government rely on incumbent Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to "be responsible for all aspects of foreign relations including the promotion of national interest."
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo responded to Del Rosario's statement, saying that the Duterte administration has not shelved the ruling, but that it is "unenforceable."
"This administration never shelved the arbitral ruling. It only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it, and neither do we have the capability of enforcing it alone by force," Panelo said.
He also blamed Del Rosario for China's occupation of Scarborough Shoal.
"Mr. Del Rosario, being responsible for the loss of the country's possession of the Scarborough Shoal during his stint as Foreign Affairs Secretary by naively causing the withdrawal of our armed ship in the area of conflict, certainly can not put forward his pretended patriotism and feigned righteousness as if he has not contributed vastly to the unwelcome situation we are presently in," Panelo said. — Erwin Colcol/BM, GMA News