MORGAN-UNSPLASHFinally, seven years after the Hague UN Arbitral ruling denying China’s claimed ownership of part of the South China Sea (now the West Philippine Sea), Senator Risa Hontiveros has publicly advocated a multilateral approach to dealing with China’s increasing aggressiveness and outright assertiveness in waters that belong to us.We have lost seven years because Rodrigo Duterte, our president for six years, chose the lame-brained “bilateral” approach favored by China, for what reason other than personal matters, it is hard to believe. After all, Duterte’s acknowledged “economic adviser” who lived in Davao was no less than a Chinese citizen. And Duterte constantly talked and behaved like a lackey to Xi Jinping whom he openly idolized.China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, along with other winners in World War II (including the USA and Russia), so, there is a limit to what the UN can do to discipline it. Japan and Germany, both losers in that war, are not in the council.Better late than never. We must now single-mindedly mobilize a broader alliance with other nations interested in protecting sovereignty and respect for the international rule of law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Arbitral Ruling in The Hague. Because it was our country that filed and won the case in The Hague, the Philippines has the moral authority to mobilize an alliance to ensure The Hague ruling is respected.There are clearly neighboring countries that would be easy to mobilize: Vietnam, which has admirably asserted itself versus China on its territorial waters; Indonesia, whose female cabinet member threw a bomb at Chinese ships trespassing on its marine territories; and Malaysia which has territorial claims in the area. The ASEAN has been inhibited by Cambodia’s support for China’s claims, and, incredibly enough, of our own President Duterte’s down-playing of our victory in The Hague. The USA has made its position clear and its Balikatan exercises and the joint military bases here are indications of where it stands. Japan, Korea, and Australia should not be difficult to invite. Very likely the European Union would be interested in supporting an alliance for the rule of international law in the seas. The bigger and more powerful the alliance we can mobilize, the more likely we can inhibit China’s bullying. As long as we stand alone as a small and poor country, we are likely to get more and more bullied by an increasingly powerful and huge nation.We cannot underestimate the harm that our passivity and inaction can cause to our country. Our fisher folk are already suffering from being banned from harvesting in our own waters, even having their lives threatened. Let us not forget the time when it was the Vietnamese who rescued our fishermen who almost drowned in our own waters when the Chinese ship bumped their boat and abandoned them when it sank.The West Philippine Sea is believed to be rich in natural resources, including gas and oil. The Chinese are certainly interested in owning these. They have already taken much of the richness of our coral reefs, thus damaging our marine environment. For political security reasons, in order to control the sea lanes, they have already turned many islets into military bases, with nary a complaint from our former president whose behavior I consider no less than treasonous. He even stated that he hoped we could become a province of China!We have certainly lost much steam. But again, better late than never. We cannot waste any more time. We have too much to lose. In fact, we have already lost so much of our territorial rights.Beyond making statements, we need to proceed to action. Sadly, the patriot, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who with full support from President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino led the legal team that won at The Hague, has passed away. In addition to his colleague Justice Antonio Carpio, we need more leaders to push our National Government to mobilize our alliances. It is necessary for our survival as a sovereign nation.Let us hope that President Marcos Jr. will have the wisdom, courage, and sense of urgency and purpose to pursue these initiatives, sooner rather than later. We have already lost too much time and access to our precious resources.Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and fellow of the Development Academy of the