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HOWIE SEE IT: On a positive direction

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By Atty. Howie Calleja

I am not one of those who voted for BBM, but when something right is being done for the welfare of the country, we should give proper credit where credit is due — and PBBM’s latest speech at the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore (in front of the world’s best, brightest and most powerful leaders, intellectuals and policymakers) has been eloquently delivered to be one of the most comprehensive foreign policies I have ever heard.

By scholarly citing the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Washington, both between Spain and the US. President Marcos Jr. educated those in attendance on the historical basis for our claim of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Treaty of Paris ceded to the US the Philippines whose territory was defined in Article III, basically the Philippine territory today. The US paid Spain $20 million, with Cuba as a freebie. The Treaty of Washington on the other hand clarified Article III of the Treaty of Paris on what constitutes the archipelago called the Philippine islands and would include the Panatag or Scarborough shoal the Spratley group of islands and the islands of Cagayan, Sulu, and Sibutu and their dependencies. The US paid Spain $100,000 for the clarification.

Likewise mentioning the 1982 UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award together with the 1945 United Nations in San Francisco, the 1967 Bangkok Agreement creating ASEAN, and the 1982 and Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes the President reiterated our country’s … “our clear moral ascendancy (and) the strength to do whatever it takes to protect our sovereign home – to the last square inch, to the last square millimeter”. To further quote PBBM, “The life-giving waters of the West Philippine Sea flow in the blood of every Filipino. We cannot allow anyone to detach it from the totality of the maritime domain that renders our nation whole … I do not intend to yield. Filipinos do not yield.”

This speech is truly a good foreign policy statement; and I must congratulate the President on his commitment to seek peace without any waiver to surrender our territory and sovereignty away — not even an inch or drop of water. A clear positive step forward; and a thankfully a step backward from the weak and defeatist attitude of Duterte vis-à-vis China.

“Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them” (Maria Popova).

Our President’s affirmation of UNCLOS and international law based on historical facts is a step towards peace and puts China on notice that we will never accept their continued bullying illegal occupation and false tales. Moreover, our collaboration with other allies such as Japan, Korea, Australia and even India (and not only the United States of America) together with other nations in our ASEAN family is also a positive course of actions and policy shift towards our strong resolve to reject the Chinese narrative and fight for the Philippine’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.

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