President Rodrigo Roa Duterte restated the Philippines’ commitment to the South China Sea, in accordance with the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award, in his speech delivered at the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
“It is a restatement of what has been the Philippine policy on China, na hindi natin pupwedeng ibalewalain ang panalo natin sa Hague. Paulit-ulit na po sinasabi yan ng ating Presidente sa iba’t ibang forum pero for the first time sinabi po niya sa UN General Assembly,” said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr during his press briefing in Malacañan on September 24.
President Duterte also said in his speech that the Arbitral Award is now part of international law and is already beyond compromise. “The existence of the award itself is in its enforcement dahil hindi nga po mabubura yan at gaya nga po ng sinabi ng Presidente, it now forms part of international law,” said Secretary Roque.
The Palace official and former professor who taught constitutional law and public international law at the University of the Philippines further explained that whatever others say about not honoring the Award, the truth is that the Award is an evidence of existence in the customary norm and cannot be erased.
On the President’s statement that the Philippines firmly rejects attempts to undermine the Award, the Spokesperson explained, “Ang tinutukoy po dyan ng ating Presidente, kahit anong physical military occupation nila sa mga isla na ang sabi naman ng Tribunal ay kabahagi ng ating exclusive economic zone, will never ripen into valid legal title.”
Among the other issues addressed by President Duterte in his UNGA speech include the importance of the UN in the COVID-19 response and the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good, the need for a global health agenda, and a call for enhanced multilateralism to address issues on peace and security.
The President likewise gave the country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals despite the slowdown in the domestic economy. Also tackled were the climate change issue, human rights, terrorism, the rights and protection of migrant workers, among others.
On another matter, Secretary Roque, who is the concurrent Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) spokesperson, announced in the same press briefing the adoption by the IATF of the protocols for the pilot use of rapid antigen tests in Baguio City for contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases in areas with documented clustering of cases, and for domestic tourists and visitors with essential travel.
According to the Department of Health, antigen testing is now certified by the Food and Drug Administration as a new diagnostic technology for SARS-COV-2. An antigen test is cheaper than RT-PCR test and results can be obtained in just around 15 to 30 minutes.
Also in the said press briefing, Health Undersecretary Dr. Leopoldo “Bong” Vega gave updates on the activities of the One Hospital Command Center. Usec. Vega said that since the start of the operations of the command center at the MMDA building in August, the One Hospital Command has received an average of 86 calls per day, most of which are being received and processed by two off-site call centers.
Vega reported that 64 percent of the cases referred to the One Hospital Command seek assistance for confirmed COVID-19 cases. Most cases referred to the command center are often admitted to hospitals (45%), while the rest are received by hotel isolation facilities (22%) and mega quarantine facilities (21%), while some others require inter-hospital transfer (12%).
Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Director General Jeremiah Belgica meanwhile shed light on the new Guidelines on the Issuance and/or Reinstitution of Permits and Licenses Under the New Normal. DG Belgica further reported that some 933 telecommunication permits were released after ARTA issued compliance orders, and some 6,252 permits and licenses were declared by ARTA as complete upon complaint and due investigation and verification. ### OPS-PCOO