Time is of the essence if the Philippines wants to bring its fight for its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea to the halls of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), according to Senator Francis Tolentino.
In an interview with CNN Philippines’ “The Source” on Friday (July 21) Tolentino said he will support the resolution of his colleague Senator Risa Hontiveros calling on the Philippines through its Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to sponsor a resolution before the New York-based UNGA for China to stop its belligerent actions in Philippine waters.
“But we have to be conscious of the process. There is a process for this. We have to be aware that before the General Assembly takes place and accepts a resolution, it has to be part of the agenda,” said Tolentino, who is vice chair of the Senate foreign relations committee.
The Philippines also has to contend with the UN’s other pressing matters, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the soaring prices of basic commodities, the senator added.
“To include (the West Philippine Sea issue) in the UN’s agenda-making process would take time and preparation. We should have started this as early as February,” Tolentino said. The 78th session of the UNGA will open this September.
DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo, as well as the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN Ambassador Antonio Manuel Revilla Lagdameo, should take the lead by informing the UNGA Secretariat about the Philippines’ plan to bring the matter before the UN’s main policy-making organ, Tolentino said.
But they should have the blessing of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the senator said.
“We should have acted earlier. But our Representative to the UN can pre-empt this by preliminarily accessing the UNGA Secretariat informing them of the intent to bring this matter to the UNGA, of course with the concurrence of the chief executive,” Tolentino said.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier promised that a majority of the Senate will adopt Hontiveros’ resolution calling on the Philippines to seek the international community’s support once the Senate resumes session next week.
In her resolution filed June 19, Hontiveros urged the Philippine government through the DFA “to sponsor a resolution before the UNGA calling on China to stop its harassment of Philippine vessels within the West Philippine Sea.”
“Although not legally binding, the UNGA resolutions carry significant political weight and serve as expressions of the will and consensus of the international community, with the potential to shape international norms, influence national policies, and provide guidance for the work of other UN organs, specialized agencies, and regional organizations,” Hontiveros’ resolution read.
But Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro earlier cautioned that a possible Philippine resolution is at risk of being turned down because of China’s veto power as one of the five permanent members in the UN Security Council.
According to its website, the Council is tasked to maintain international peace and security by “determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression” and by “call(ing) upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommend(ing) methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.”