Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio answers questions during a forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City yesterday. Right photo shows Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr., former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and Solicitor General Jose Calida singing the national anthem before the start of the forum. JOEY VIDUYA, AP
MANILA, Philippines – The “rock stars” of the country’s successful arbitration case against China should be honored by having two of the biggest rocks or outcrops in the West Philippine Sea named after them, Solicitor General Jose Calida suggested yesterday.
Drawing cheers at a forum at the University of the Philippines, Calida said he would want to name the two biggest rocks inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea after former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario and Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
“Because of their unsung heroism, I will look for the biggest island in the West Philippine Sea – the biggest rock – and rename it as ‘Albert Rock’ in honor of Secretary Del Rosario. And I will search for the next biggest rock and name it ‘Tony Rock’ in honor of senior justice Tony Carpio. These gentlemen, they truly rock,” Calida said.
The solicitor general’s not using the word “island” to describe the land features is in line with the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague which said that none of the features in the West Philippine Sea may be considered as islands, hence not capable of having their own 200-nautical mile EEZ.
“Secretary Del Rosario and Justice Carpio are our country’s patriots in this case,” added Calida.
“They were not only instrumental in fighting for our country’s maritime entitlements, but they stood their ground like sturdy rocks to resist any efforts to undermine the case,” he said.
Del Rosario and Carpio were among those who attended the forum, which discussed the ruling and the post-arbitration challenges for the Philippines.
In his message, the former foreign affairs chief expressed gratitude to those who supported the Philippine case.
“We express our appreciation to (former) president Benigno Aquino III for his firm conviction and leadership to defend what is ours as mandated by the Constitution; to our members of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches for their pro-active advocacy,” he said.
“To the people of the Philippines for their unwavering and strong support of our foreign policy; to the members of the arbitral tribunal for their wisdom and objectivity,” he added.
He also thanked Carpio, as well as the nations that supported the Philippine position, including the United States, Japan, Australia, the G7, the European Union, and “most members” of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“(Thank you) to all others who I may have failed to mention for being with us in demonstrating that right is might and that international law is a great equalizer for all states,” he said, calling for further support to ensure peace, prosperity and stability in the region.
‘Change has come’
In his speech, Calida said “change has come in the troubled waters of the South China Sea” even as he reiterated the Duterte administration’s commitment to peaceful solution to the maritime rift with China. “Change” is President Duterte’s campaign battlecry.
“On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, the tribunal issued its award which strongly affirmed the centrality of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas or UNCLOS in clarifying the maritime rights and duties of the Philippines and China in the South China Sea,” he added.
Calling it a historic victory for the international community as it renews humanity’s faith in rules-based global order, Calida said the award favoring almost all of the Philippine submissions opens horizons of possibilities for all stakeholders.
“The award is a crowning glory of international law. It provides for the norms that must be followed for the peaceful and orderly conduct of world affairs,” he said.
“While there is no so-called world sheriff to enforce it, the award can function as a focal point that enables the state and non-state actors to bring countries in line with international law,” he added.
The solicitor general said the government will rely on diplomacy in dealing with China following the ruling.
“As I said, the Philippines will not sacrifice what we have obtained from this decision, but we will also pursue diplomatic means, hopefully to convince China that we can co-exist peacefully,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the event.
He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay was set to present the Philippine position on the ruling before the Asia-Europe Meeting in Mongolia yesterday.
“Foreign Secretary Yasay has the discretion to do what is best for the Philippines,” said Calida. “We will use all peaceful means through diplomacy.”
Serious about FVR
Calida also said Duterte was serious when he announced his plan to tap former president Fidel V. Ramos to negotiate with China. “The President is serious, this is a serious matter,” Calida said. “I hope (Ramos) will accept.”
When asked about Duterte’s plan, Ramos reportedly said that the President may have said it in jest. Ramos has yet to accept the offer.
According to the solicitor general, the government could not give a specific timeframe as to what it planned to do next.
Originally posted on The Philippine Star