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Robredo Marks '5 Years of Missed Opportunities' in the West Philippine Sea

On the 5th anniversary of the Hague ruling.
by Ara Eugenio
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Photo/s: Noel Celis/AFP

For vice president Leni Robredo, it's been five years of "missed opportunities" in the West Philippine Sea despite a 2016 arbitral ruling that  invalidated China's expansive claims in the disputed waters.  

National leadership has yet to fully flex the arbitral award to pursue the country's interests, failing to invoke it in strong enough terms in the forums that matter most, said Robredo on Monday, July 12, the anniversary of the award.

At present, fisherfolk remain unable to enter areas they used to have access to for generations; alliances that could have been strengthened were allowed to erode while those who "bully their way into our waters have been treated with deference, and at times, subservience", she said. 

"The dream of a regional architecture founded on respect and mutual prosperity has become even more elusive," she added. 

Robredo's late ally, former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III pursued the case against China and won. His successor President Duterte, as receiver of the award, refused to flaunt the ruling and instead sought closer economic and political ties with Beijing.

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According to Robredo, the Hague ruling is now a part of international law, one that cannot be erased from history books, nor denied despite "unending lies spewed forth by a formidable machinery of disinformation". 

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Robredo said filing the case before the tribunal had been the country's way of standing up for what is right against the economic and military might of a world power that is China, "yielding the admiration and respect of the entire world".

Also on Monday, the European Union's delegation to the Philippines commemorated the award through a statement signed by the EU and ASEAN senior officials last July 8. 

"We further reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and the right of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the #SouthChinaSea, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with international law, in particular  #UNCLOS," the statement read.

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"Today’s commemoration is a reminder, a challenge, and a promise: That if only we can remember, if only we can unite, if only we can rediscover our spirit and once again stand for what is right— we will find, beneath the rubble of cowardice and neglect, our courage, our dignity, and our national pride," said Robredo.

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