FORMER and current government officials, led by Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo, praised journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug and her latest book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China, during its launch on July 24.
The 315-page Rock Solid focuses on Manila’s territorial dispute with Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and its winning its case against the Asian powerhouse before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in The Netherlands in July 2016.
In her remarks at the launch at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Robredo called the book “a treasure trove of varying perspectives on our struggles in the West Philippine Sea.”
“Such an account, based on many different points of view, is necessary for us to understand how to ‘sail’ forward from here on,” she added.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the country’s staunchest defenders on the issue, described Rock Solid as “well-researched,” as it “faithfully narrated” how the arbitration came about and was pursued.
“The facts and perspectives that [Vitug] elicited in her interviews with the main actors add to our understanding on why events unfolded and happened the way they did,” he said at the event.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who delivered the opening statement for the Philippines before The Hague, said the book served as “a chilling reminder” of the actions that took shape to where the country stood today.
“In a global order that is haunted by uncertainties, let this book be a reminder that a small power like the Philippines has made a significant contribution to the region,” he added.
According to Vitug, she worked on the book for 16 months, which took her to the frontlines of the dispute: Pag-asa Island and Palawan province; Masinloc town in Zambales province, “where geopolitics is personal to Filipino fishermen;” The Hague, the setting of the arbitration; and the Foley Hoag law firm in Washington, D.C., which helped advance the Philippines’ case.
She also immersed herself in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the dispute itself, and other documents.
“In this book I tell the story of this victory that gave the country so much but has not given the national attention it deserves,” the journalist said.
“At first, the subject of rocks, reefs, and islands scattered in the South China Sea seemed esoteric to me. But as I learned, they meant something more than their geographical location. They resonated with an ideal close to the hearts of many Filipinos asserting and fighting for a country’s rights,” she added.
“The past has a lot to teach us, even if the decisions and actions were made under another government…the Philippines should learn from its rock-solid victory and not let it go to waste.”
Rock Solid is published under the Ateneo de Manila University Press’ Bughaw imprint. The book costs P545 and is currently available in Fully Booked branches.