MANILA – “The face of defeat.”
That was how South China Sea scholar and BBC journalist Bill Hayton described the Philippines’ refusal to raise its arbitral victory against China before the United Nations.
Hayton, author of the book “The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia,” said he believes the Philippines “has plenty of options between pointless war and abject surrender.”
“That’s what diplomacy is. In this struggle, Manila has many friends all around the world. They are willing to help…” he said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meantime, stood pat on the government’s position, saying that the ASEAN has lost the award in UN multilateral subgroups such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a forum of more than 100 developing states.
“China’s influence cannot be countered. Anyone who thinks different is ignorant. Hague Award too valuable to lose in a forlorn fight,” Locsin said.
He said the country’s lawyers said it was “not a good idea to re-litigate the same issues.”
“We lost in the UN’s NAM at least 3 times since I assumed UN and now this post. I boycotted NAM but realized we were not there; but ASEAN was or some of it; and to no avail,” he said.
Hayton said international law is on the Philippine side, citing statements by 28 European Union states and the G7.
“You have international law on your side, 28 EU states agreeing a statement in your support, G7 statements calling for maritime rules to be respected, a treaty ally committed to the defense of your ships and a cadre of competent diplomats. What more does the Philippines need?” he said.
But Locsin said the UN would merely “trash” the arbitral award and the US is “not committed to defend our ships.”
“That’s just a scrap of paper, to quote a famous European,” Locsin added, referring to international law.
Hayton said he does not see “signs of activity from Manila that would advance the Philippines’ interests,” asking if the government has asked its diplomats to build a coalition of support.
Locsin said the agency is “on it” and that it is “not just verbally committed but enforcing as far as they can the Arbitral Award in every forum.”
“Never ever question the loyalty of the DFA to the country and the national interest regardless of administration. In the UN I led the attack and told career to keep low; I have nothing to lose; they have lots; but still they fight hard and openly,” he said.
In the end, Locsin invited Hayton to do a lecture before the agency. Hayton said he would love to come.
“I would love to come! Always a pleasure discussing these issues with you po!” Hayton said.
The Duterte administration has refused to flaunt the ruling in favor of improved diplomatic ties with Beijing.