The will to fight for what is ours | Inquirer Opinion

The will to fight for what is ours

04:15 AM December 19, 2022

One of the defining challenges of the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is to enable Filipinos to access the West Philippine Sea, in the face of the continuing and illegal Chinese denial of our own resources. If President Marcos Jr. is able to do this, it will show that his leadership is upholding the best interests of our countrymen.

The effects of China’s illegal and oppressive actions in the West Philippine Sea are now being felt by ordinary Filipinos.

With their meager income, most of our countrymen are constrained to pay for high prices in food and energy because these are becoming even scarcer. Next year, electricity prices in our country are projected to skyrocket, which will make living more difficult for our countrymen and will further damage our fragile economy.


Given the near depletion of one of our largest energy sources, the Malampaya gas field, it is imperative to develop our energy resources in the West Philippine Sea. Given the inflation in food prices, it is also imperative that we are be able to sustainably develop our fisheries in the West Philippine Sea.


The West Philippine Sea is ours under the law and the 2016 Arbitral Award under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos. Thus, we do not need China’s consent or permission to use our own resources in the West Philippine Sea. Talking to China to give us access to the West Philippine Sea is like talking to a thief to give back what the thief stole from us.

How do we confront a superpower like China to give back what is ours? Do we kowtow in the face of bullying and brute strength just like what former president Rodrigo Duterte did in the last six years?

Our leadership has the constitutional duty to protect what is ours and to uphold the best interests of our countrymen. This fundamental duty also applies to every Filipino for his or her own benefit, as well as for the benefit of future generations of Filipinos.

Given China’s might, it remains a reality that our country needs to be creative and resourceful to be able to enforce its rights.

On Dec. 1, 2022, Mr. Marcos said that “there might be other ways [to explore oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea] so it does not have to be G-to-G (government-to-government).” He also declared that oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea is “a big thing for us, that is why we need to fight [for what is ours] and take advantage if there really is oil there.”

The right partner for exploring the energy potential in the West Philippine Sea must respect the Philippines’ ownership of the oil and gas resources in our territories. We have the power to choose and engage the most qualified party, whether from China or other states, that we can trust to respect and support our national interests.


We have previously mentioned the examples of our neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia, each sending their drilling ships last year in their respective waters. Despite warnings and harassment from China, our neighbors proceeded with, and completed their drilling.

Thus, Malaysia and Indonesia, whose waters are also claimed by China, were able to assert their sovereign rights over their waters, without the benefit of an Unclos Award and a mutual defense treaty with the US, like the Philippines.

In other words, we are in a better position to enforce our rights in the West Philippine Sea than our neighbors. What is needed is an ironclad political will to do so.

We believe that winning the 2016 Unclos Award is former president Benigno Aquino III’s greatest legacy to the nation.

In the aftermath of winning the 2016 Unclos Award, former president Rodrigo Duterte left a shameful legacy of squandering the Award in a misguided quid pro quo for Chinese loans and investments which never materialized.

The enforcement of the 2016 Unclos Award—by successfully securing our energy and food resources in the West Philippine Sea—may prove to be Mr. Marcos’ greatest legacy that he has yet to give to the Filipino nation.

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Albert del Rosario is chair of Stratbase ADR Institute, and former foreign secretary and ambassador to the US.


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