THE Duterte administration has pursued a foreign policy strategy that has had the beneficial effects of reducing the tension in the South China Sea, restoring good relations between the Philippines and China, and gaining respect for the Philippines’ geopolitical strategic importance in the region.
With the Philippines’ chairmanship of Asean coming to an end, it is still timely for the Philippines to mention and put on record the Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) arbitration award. It would be extraordinary if the Philippines were to be completely silent in Asean about the arbitration award that protects the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone and its continental shelf under international law. This is a forum where the Philippines can act as chairman only once every 10 years.
The Philippines has not mentioned the arbitration award in the Asean meetings to avoid offending China. It has adopted a policy of refraining from citing the arbitration award in public forums while engaging China in bilateral talks to gain economic benefits. On the other hand, China has actively promoted the myths that the Unclos arbitration has no validity in international law and that the Philippines filed the arbitration case as a proxy of the United States. But nothing is further from the truth.