Del Rosario to Malacañang: China has been taking away our land and waters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) – Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario highlighted on Sunday the importance of asserting the Philippines' sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea in an open letter addressed to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

"China has been taking away our land and waters. We would like to ask, Mr. Secretary, why our fellow Filipinos are being chastised for wanting to defend our country, rather than China?" Del Rosario said. "Why are we giving more importance to China over that of our people?"

Del Rosario stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte must be the leader in resolving challenges to the country's sovereignty.

"This is what presidents must be relied upon to do. To defend what is ours is also found in our Constitution," he said.

READ: Duterte: No way we can get back West PH Sea without any bloodshed

The former foreign affairs secretary said the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, which recognized Manila's sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, is a significant part of international law that is enforceable. He added that the ruling is also acknowledged by "responsible" nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Australia, among others.

Del Rosario suggested to the Philippine government to file a case before the United Nations General Assembly to compel China to abide by the landmark arbitral ruling, which stated the Asian giant's "nine-dash line" maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

"There are several precedents that have resulted in which a small country has won over a much larger country in the UN General Assembly," Del Rosario said.

The country's former top diplomat also questioned why he and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio were being singled out for their sharp stance against Beijing's land-building activities and harassment of Filipino fishermen in the disputed waters.

In his last public address on April 28, Duterte blasted Del Rosario and Carpio for meddling in the West Philippine Sea issue.

"Mr. Secretary, I assure you I am not brave nor am I a coward. Neither do I seek a position or a political favor," he said.

RELATED: Carpio sees no concern, future action from Duterte amid presence of suspected Chinese militia in West PH Sea

Del Rosario and Carpio led the filing of the case against China in the arbitral tribunal, which happened during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III. Del Rosario is the Aquino administration's foreign affairs chief.

Palace: Duterte never renounced Manila's claims and entitlements in West Philippine Sea

Hours before the release of Del Rosario's open letter, Malacañang issued a statement which emphasized that Duterte never renounced the country's claims and entitlements in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte's "careful, calculated, and calibrated" policy on the West Philippine Sea is consistent with the principles of international law that requires a dispute resolution through peaceful and legal means.

"In fact, he and his administration have repeatedly and consistently asserted them in bilateral talks with China and in multilateral fora like the United Nations. He knows that, as a responsible member of the world community, the Philippines must pursue its claims by legal and diplomatic means," said Roque.

Roque also said the statements of Del Rosario and Carpio on the West Philippine Sea are not helping the country.

"History shows that countries who demand all or nothing policies often get nothing at all, or even end up provoking war. This is exactly what the President is avoiding," said Roque. "Because all or nothing policies are not only inconsistent with international law and international reality -- they are dangerous and they will not work."

Del Rosario earlier said standing up for the country's rights in the West Philippine Sea is not the same as an act of war against China. He added that China itself will not wage a war against the Philippines due to its possible repercussions.