It has been four years since the historic 2016 Hague ruling, where the Permanent Court of Arbitration recognized the Philippines’ territorial claims in the contested waters in the West Philippine Sea. The arbitral award was seen as a victory of the rule of law and democratic institutions over international strong-arm tactics.
However, four years later, the Duterte administration continues to skirt the issue, shelving the victory, and leaving Filipinos clamoring for the government to do something about China’s continued expansionist tactics in the West Philippine Sea.
According to a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey commissioned by the Stratbase ADR Institute, 7 out of 10 Filipinos agree that the Philippine Government should assert its rights over the islands in the West Philippine Sea. Not only that, but the survey also found that 8 out of 10 Filipinos agree that the Philippines should form alliances with other countries to help defend its rights. The SWS survey also showed that China is the least trusted nation according to Filipinos.
However, these sentiments are not new, since even previous surveys show that Filipinos have voiced their desire for the government to recognize and assert the Hague ruling since it was awarded four years ago.
Yet, even with the public clamor, the Duterte administration, in large part, has chosen to ignore the call for action on the West Philippine Sea issue. Instead, it has allowed China to continue its reclamation activities, exploit resources and deploy vessels in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. All this despite campaign promises to assert the Hague ruling, uphold the rule of law and deliver effective and responsive governance.
Through this inaction in the West Philippine Sea, the Duterte administration shows not only that it is unwilling to uphold our sovereignty, but it also demonstrates bad governance.