New book by Vitug “Rock Solid” a stronghold of Filipino resilience

July 25, 2018
Public officials, academics, and journalists gathered on July 24, 2018 at the Rizal Library of Ateneo de Manila University in support of the launch of Marites Vitug’s new book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case against China.
 
The book, published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press with support from the School of Social Sciences, was lauded by the launch’s guests for instilling a “sense of national esteem.” 
 
The afternoon’s program was preceded by a book signing with the author. “Remember a historic event,” Vitug would write in the inscription.
 
Dr. Maria Luz Vilches, Vice President for the Loyola Schools, was congratulatory and praising of Vitug for the endeavor. “The ideas are fresh and incisive,” she said, “borne out of facts and well-formed opinions, engaged with rigor in the sixteen months of reading, interviewing, and writing by no less than one of the Philippines’ most seasoned journalists, undaunted in her steadfast crusade for the truth, Ms. Marites Vitug.”
 
“Sometimes, I think of book launches as akin to wafting ideas in the air with great hopes that people catch these and turn them into actions. Today’s book launch needs no wafting gestures,” said Dr. Vilches in her welcoming remarks.
 
Likewise, she commended the Ateneo Press, headed by Karina Bolasco, for publishing “yet another influential book.”
 
Vitug, Editor-at-Large of Rappler and an award-winning journalist has authored several books, including Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, Power from the Forest: the Politics of Logging, and Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao. She is a also recipient of the Ozanam Award from Ateneo, an award given to “persons who have given distinctive and continued service to their fellowmen in accordance to the principles of justice and charity.”
 
Vitug then shared a few words about the process of writing the book. 
 
The book, she said, began as a suggestion from her friends, but she hesitated, thinking that “the scattered reefs, rocks, and islands in the South China Sea was an esoteric subject.”
 
“Why should I care about these distant, remote features, some of which are even submerged during high tide?” she asked herself. 
 
“And as I learned, the rocks, reefs and islands which I initially thought were esoteric subjects 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,” said Vitug.
 
As she started preliminary research and read up on the case, coming across documents and memos—many of which had once been classified and now made public—a thought struck her: What can be more thrilling to a journalist than to uncover secrets?
 
And with that, the book began to take shape. 
 
Vitug also wanted to answer more questions about the case itself—Why did the Philippines sue China? What were the hurdles that had to be overcome? How did the Philippines frame the case and build it in such a compelling manner? What was the outcome of the case and its impact? 
 
“I tell the story of this victory that gave the country so much but has not been given the national attention it deserves. The Philippines gained a maritime area larger than the total land area of the country, rich in resources. Yes these gains have been disregarded by the government in its rush to embrace China.”
 
“Ours was a landmark case,” Vitug urged everyone to remember and never forget. “It is one forever engraved in the annals of public international law.”
 
Also present at the book launch were Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary and Ambassador Albert del Rosario, both of whom had kind and effusive words about Vitug’s work, as well as insightful remarks about the current state of the case.
 
“This book will explain to the Filipino people in layman’s language why the Philippines filed the  arbitration case and why we won overwhelmingly the case,” Justice Carpio said of the book.
 
“This book of Marites comes at a crucial time when there is an urgent need for a renewed  effort to inform the Filipino people that the enforcement of the ruling  is the only viable way of protecting and preserving our sovereign rights  in the West Philippine Sea,” said Justice Carpio. 
 
He also commended Vitug “for writing a story of a landmark and historic arbitration  that all Filipinos should be proud of, a story that should be told and  retold to this generation and future generations of Filipinos.”
 
del Rosario asserted, “The Philippines took a measured risk in order to protect what rightfully belongs to it. To subsequently afford China a soft diplomacy is a clear mockery, not only of our people, but of the whole of the rules-based international system.”
 
del Rosario, for his part, said, “In her book, Marites offers a discerning account of the historical interplay of factors and actors behind the Philippine claims in the South China Sea with a focus on the arguments and challenges leading to our case.”
 
“As our government continues to sit on their hands, this book could serve as a chilling reminder to our government of China’s persistent attacks on our sovereignty,” he added.
 
Gracing the launch and delivering the afternoon’s keynote speech was Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, Maria Leonora Gerona Robredo. 
 
“We seem to be seeing a lot of each other lately,” the Vice President said in jest as she opened her keynote.
 
“We are very pleased that at this time of great turmoil, we all find reason to gather, cross-pollinate ideas, and listen to one another,” the Vice President opened. “The encroachment of a rising global superpower on a country such as ours is no small threat to our people’s way of life. We must stand together if we are to respond to this threat successfully and definitively.
 
“It is difficult to explain how such a landmark victory for our nation as well as for the rule of law can be casually dismissed by our own government. It is no exaggeration to say that leaders and experts from different corners of the world waited with bated breath for the international ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that occurred more than two years ago.”
 
“May we always work side by side despite our differences at times, for the good of our country,” ended the VP.
 
But this dismissal, she said, should not be a hindrance.
 
“The time has come to go beyond our frustrations and think of a clear plan of action that our nation must consider to protect the West Philippine Sea from those who will take it from our people. This is where Rock Solid comes in.”
 
“In finding a way forward, it must be clear to us what happened in the past, the factors that matter, the main actors that made it possible, and what must be done now that we have won the case of a lifetime,” she added.
 
“The sheer volume of research in this book’s more than 300 pages which contains with a long list of resource persons—ranging from the longest-staying resident of Pag-asa Island to experts in the Hague, from military officers to congressmen, from Acting Justice Antonio Carpio to Former DFA Secretary and Ambassador Albert del Rosario—indicates that this is a treasure trove of varying perspectives on our struggles in the West Philippine Sea.”
 
Ending her speech, the Vice President said, “That you and I, our children, and their children can sleep at night soundly knowing that tomorrow, everything that we laboured for will be ours and that our people will live in a country secure from outer threats—that is our dream. This is what we deserve.” 
 
Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case against China is available at the Ateneo University Press in Bellarmine Hall, Fully Booked, Popular Bookstore, La Solidaridad, and Ayala Museum.