“I think it was good judgment on the President’s part not to mention it,” Del Rosario said on the sidelines of the SONA at the Batasan Complex. “It’s like when you’re in dispute and you’re already in court, you really don’t discuss the issue.”
“I think the plans are clear, because the train has left the station. We filed for arbitration and we’re waiting for the process to continue,” he added.
The Philippines sought arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) last January to have China’s nine-dash claim declared “illegal.” China’s territorial claims cover almost all the South China Sea, including sections that have been declared as the West Philippine Sea.
Del Rosario also said he saw no need for the president to mention the issue of disputed territories, as the decision of the UN Arbitral Tribunal would be final.
Also, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda echoed Del Rosario’s sentiments. “Ngayon gumagalaw sa UNCLOS na ngayon, so there’s really nothing to discuss na, nasabi na rin ng Pangulo at ng Department of Foreign Affairs [lahat ng dapat sabihin,]” he said.
The International Tribunal convened last week in the Netherlands to look at the complaint lodged by the Philippines.
The Philippines and China have been locked in a territorial dispute over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since April 2012.
Both countries are also among six claimants to the Spratly Islands, which China calls the Nansha Islands. The other claimants include Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
For his part, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas said that he was in no position to comment on the contents of Aquino’s speech.
Nevertheless, he was pleased that Aquino praised Del Rosario in his speech.
“I think all the diplomatic corps has tremendous respect for the work and integrity of Secretary Del Rosario,” Thomas said.
The Ambassador also expressed his desire for the Philippines and the United States to continue their cooperation.
“I think it’s up to the Filipino people to judge the effectiveness of his speech. But because his government has been transparent and open in fighting corruption, I think he has allowed us, under President Obama’s leadership, to increase assistance to the Philippines, and I hope we’ll be able to do that,” said Thomas. — DVM, GMA News