Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. AP FILE PHOTO
The Duterte administration remains steadfast in fighting for the country’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on the first anniversary of the Philippines’ historic win in the arbitral tribunal in its territorial dispute with China.
In a statement on Wednesday, Cayetano stressed that the Philippines would pursue its claims by fostering good relations with its neighbors.
“The Philippines shall remain an enemy to none and a friend to all in its pursuit of economic and political benefits for the country, including the long-term security and stability in the region,” he said.
“The Duterte administration reaffirms it’s unwavering commitment to protect our country’s territorial claims and maritime entitlements, but believes that the ongoing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea should further be resolved in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighborly relations,” he said.
While many criticized Mr. Duterte’s rather unorthodox foreign policy, the former senator said it had resulted in “great benefits for the country.”
Describing it a “game-changer,” Cayetano said the President’s decision to implement “an independent foreign policy” had also allowed the Philippines to enjoy “considerable economic gains” and buttress its position as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and as a “regional peacemaker.”
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“Through the adoption of positive neighborly relations, our fishermen are back exercising their livelihood in Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
“President Duterte’s priority of regional peace and stability has led to the healthy environment of dialogue, cooperation and development.”
According to Cayetano, the President’s efforts to improve the Philippines’ relations with other countries brought in foreign investments and financial assistance commitments amounting to more than $30 billion.
“These significant developments have likewise allowed our defense resources to also address other pressing security concerns facing the country,” he said.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea had no legal bassis and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights to fish and explore resources in its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who led the Philippine team in the arbitral tribunal, said it had been “a year of disappointment after disappointment” since the decision was handed down.
“The current administration seems to have adopted a policy of defeatism and a mindset of nonenforcement of the award. Filipinos haven’t seen any forward movement for the Philippines and there has been no pushback against China’s continued aggression,” he added.