Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
I am delighted to be back in New York, among familiar faces, friends and co-conspirators from my Elysian days as Permanent Representative.
The Philippines is a proud founding member of the United Nations, even before it was independent. In our engagement with the UN, we have always believed that the UN’s work must reflect the realities and aspirations of “we the peoples”— pointedly not the member states” — of the United Nations.” It is only then that it can continue to remain relevant and effective. It is true that much harm is done to people by states, even their own — though nowhere near as much as non-state actors have inflicted as we have seen. But only states have the wherewithal to protect people — their own and in extreme cases those of other states. But never unilaterally by the United Nations. Now that the United Nations is under siege from rising protectionist sentiments and hostility to multilateralism, it becomes more imperative to respect the sovereign principle; one can work with it or even around it but never against it. That undermines the international order; as we have seen when states are made to fail by multilateral action.
If the UN is to endure, it must remember that it is a collection of sovereignties but not itself a sovereign collective. It is only as effective as members cooperate to make it so. And it should not presume to threaten states with accountability for taking a tough approach to crushing crime.
Membership in the UN is an act of sovereignty; for sovereignty is as much a duty of care as it is an assertion of unlimited freedom of action. In the United Nations the two combine in the willing assumption of that duty on the part of states toward the international order.
As a sovereign country, the Philippines commits to continue to work with the UN to maintain international peace and security, counter terrorism, achieve the SDGs, upscale climate action, downscale more climate talk, uphold human rights and gender equality, protect the rights of migrants, and strengthen UN institutions, especially the ECOSOC — the last stone standing of the defunct League of Nations that served as the professional cornerstone of the new United Nations.
And in the exercise of this sovereignty, the Philippines renews its solemn responsibility to protect the law-abiding against the lawless by any means efficient to achieve the defining purpose for the existence and expense of a state: defense of nation, protection of people.
This responsibility resonates as we mark the 121st Anniversary of Philippine Independence. Ours is a story of unceasing struggle for independence: to gain it, to keep it; to regain it when lost; and expand its freedom of action and scope. Following independence, the struggle continued as a striving for an independent foreign policy. Today we’ve refined the recent foreign policy of being friend to all, enemy to none to what I’ve made it: friend to friends, enemy to enemies; a worse enemy to false friends.
We celebrate this Anniversary with the theme “Courage of the Nation, Compassion for the People.” It is a battle cry for resilience and humanity in the face of challenges: values that have defined the Filipinos as a people.
Excellencies, dear friends, Please raise your glasses and join me in a toast: To the courage of our nations and to compassion for all our peoples. Mabuhay! Long life!