I STILL can’t seem to fathom why, after President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China in August, former Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario came out with a statement saying that the president’s acceptance of Beijing’s continued rejection of Manila’s 2016 arbitral victory on the former’s nine-dash-line claim over almost the entire South China Sea may constitute a betrayal of public trust.

This after Duterte kept his promise to discuss the 2016 favorable arbitral ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the Philippine’s rights over the disputed waters and after the latter was quoted as telling his Filipino counterpart to “put aside” the maritime dispute between the two countries, and instead, focus on pushing forward a deal to jointly explore oil and gas in the disputed waters of the South China Sea (SCS).

“For the Philippines to have been asked to agree that it will not bring up the issue again is to effectively accept without equivocation that China is above the rule of law. This would be so wrong. It would be a betrayal of the trust we have placed in our governance,” Del Rosario said.

Due to China’s continued refusal to accept the ruling handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, del Rosario suggested that the Philippines should now prepare a strategy to bring the arbitration ruling issue before the United Nations (UN).

Now, what betrayal then is del Rosario talking about and how would the UN resolve China’s occupation and militarization of the SCS, of which the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is part of?

What betrayal has been committed when not even the greatest nation, the United States, nor the foremost peace and security keeping body, the UN, has been able to stop the bold and blatant display of hegemony by China in this part of the world?

Just because Duterte does not want to bring up ever again the Hague’s 2016 ruling invalidating Beijing’s sweeping nine-dash claim over the SCS, to include the WPS, for the simple reason that China does not respect nor recognize the legality or legitimacy of the arbitral body, would his action as our country’s leader constitute a betrayal of public trust?

Instead of being confrontational, as what del Rosario seem to suggest Duterte should be, what the latter is pursuing is making the best out of this unfortunate relationship and not create more discord that will only undermine whatever economic assistance and benefits we are getting from China for Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program and other government projects.

Suffice to say that it is good to know that both leaders agreed to work together, on the basis of mutual trust and good faith, in resolving contentious maritime issues and the possible joint exploration between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he sees nothing wrong with China’s proposal of 60-40 deal to split oil resources in the West Philippine Sea in Manila’s favor. Better to take advantage of this offer now than be in the losing end of the deal with some other countries in the future.

Thus, to be harmonious and friendly with China, as what Duterte’s attitude has shown to be, should not be construed as being disloyal to the Filipino people.

The reality of our situation vis-à-vis China, which is that of an underdog, demands that our leaders should not to be antagonistic, but rather vigilant, rational and above all displaying confidence and pride as Filipinos.