Omnibus Intervention of SECRETARY TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR. at the Working Lunch hosted by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the Working Lunch.

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ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit
State Department, Washington D.C.
13 May 2022, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm


Prime Minister Hun Sen,
Vice President Kamala Harris,
Your Majesty, Excellencies, good afternoon.

President Duterte could not be here due to his firm commitment to the Filipino people that he would ensure we had free and honest elections, demonstrating a commitment to our adherence to democratic principles. With the elections over, we have a clear winner. We thank President Biden for his congratulatory call to President-elect Marcos the other night. Both agreed to continue working on sustaining our special relations in mutual defense.

As an archipelagic state the Philippines puts primacy on maritime freedom and security, first and foremost in its exclusive waters; be they territorial, EEZed or continental shelf. The determination of the last needs work and cooperation in the UN and mutual consent in affected parts of Southeast Asia.

With regard to our EEZ, we hold fast to the Arbitral Award we fought for and won by ourselves, in the teeth of international indifference and outside opposition from the world’s second biggest economic and military power that had disdained to thresh out our differences in the Arbitral Tribunal. And yet it submitted objections; all of which failed to convince the Tribunal.

After winning that case, we did not actively seek its recognition by the international community. That would have undermined the totality of our victory by diluting its binding legal force with the seeming need for international acclamation and support. The victory is pure law.

What is ours is ours.

It can be taken from us by stealth or force; yet that would not diminish a whit of our sovereign ownership. What is stolen cannot be lost by prescription, we insist. Brute facts do not ripen into law.

A contrary view upholds force as universal law given time and the tenacity of the taker. Why Ukraine will never lose its sovereignty over areas occupied by the Russian aggressor. It may be beaten but never defeated. The broken country’s dream of taking back what was taken will never die. Opportunists argue that if it cannot be held by force or otherwise effectively enforced, it is deemed ceded.

No, what is taken is stolen; what is ceded will turn into the ghost of a severed limb, crippling forever the self-honor, the very integrity of a nation that will never forget what it lost. Given time and tenacity, it will take it all back; whatever the consequences to the peace of its region or the world.

The benefit of the Arbitral Award is not exclusive to the Philippines. The Award provides legal clarity to all and is available to other countries with the same problematic maritime features as ours. It benefits the world across the board.

The U.S. is our most vocal partner in reaffirming the 2016 Arbitral Award and upholding a rules-based international order. We deeply appreciate that. We most certainly welcome the U.S. Senate’s call for a common ASEAN approach to reaffirm the Award. Thank you, America.

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