Former President Benigno Aquino III expressed his satisfaction over the Philippines’ victory against China before the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). In a press statement, Aquino said that he is elated that all points raised by the Philippines were affirmed by the Tribunal.
“We want to thank the Permanent Court of Arbitration for their fair judgment, and we would also like to extend our gratitude for the clarity with which they presented their ruling,” he said. The former chief executive also urged Filipinos to look at the Philippines’ victory at the arbitration through a broader perspective.
“The best way to look at this judgment is that it is a victory for all. I say this because the clarity rendered now establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity,” he said.
The former president then took the time to acknowledge the men and women that argued the case for the Philippines before the UN led by Washington-based lawyer Paul Reichler, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and certain members of the Aquino cabinet including then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, former Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and former Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima.
“Now that the rules are even clearer, we can all move forward as a global community. Without doubt, this long-running dispute is now closer to having a permanent solution,” he concluded.
Indeed, yesterday’s decision was a significant victory for our country. The Philippines might be a small country in terms of size, economic power, and geopolitical influence, but the UN showed that when the playing field is level, our country can assert its rights over what is rightfully ours against a superpower.
Now, amidst the muted celebration of the Philippines’ decisive win, it is important for Aquino to get the credit he deserves. After all, it is he who started the ball rolling, and as he said, it was under his watch that the administration really pursued the case against China.
Everyone should remember how he raised awareness on the territorial dispute during the 2011 State of the Nation Address when he said these words:
“Malinaw ang pahiwatig natin ngayon sa buong mundo: Ang sa Pilipinas ay sa Pilipinas; [applause] kapag tumapak ka sa Recto Bank, para ka na ring tumapak sa Recto Avenue.”
“Wala tayong balak mang-away, pero kailangan ding mabatid ng mundo na handa tayong ipagtanggol ang atin.”