Duterte’s non-censure of China on SCS dispute hit

 

Long before the Philippines was designated as host for the ASEAN Summit 2017, those instrumental in filing and winning the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague over the country’s maritime territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea (SCS) were hoping that this could be the right opportunity and venue by which the ASEAN bloc, through its chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte, could express condemnation over China’s aggressive build-up of artificial islands and militarization of the same, which are now viewed as a threat to the peace and security of the region.

What gave these people the confidence that this will be realized is the fact that many of the member-nations are, like the Philippines, contesting China’s claim of its own territorial waters.

Unfortunately, the ruling of the PCA came after Duterte got elected president and as we all know he never considered this favorable arbitral tribunal’s ruling a victory of sort for the country as he continued making deals with China.

In fact one would think that Duterte should have kept distance from China after illegally claiming and occupying parts of our sovereignty, but he instead honored the invitation of China’s president to visit him.

But do we really have to blame Duterte if, as chairman of the 30th ASEAN Summit, he failed to censure China over what it has done with impunity in the SCS?

Throughout the summit Duterte said the Philippines and other nations were helpless to stop the island building, so there was no point discussing it at all.

Duterte was just being practical and realistic for, indeed, the issue in the SCS among claimant nations versus China is no longer about resolving China’s permanent military presence in the area, but rather in trying to manage and make the best out of their presence in the region.

What we and the other ASEAN member-nations are facing now is a developing geopolitical situation which has been arrogantly imposed on us.

This is the price of being an underdeveloped country. Against China we are nothing. If the U.S. was not able to stop China’s military build-up in the SCS, who are we to stop them?

But as people, we just have to make sure that our pride and dignity will not go to the dogs.

We will see how Duterte could protect us and where his independent foreign policy will get us to.

We can’t do nothing but cross our fingers.

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No euphoria in the favorable decision of China-Philippines arbitration

 

south china sea“The award is a complete and total victory for the Philippines … a victory for international law and international relations,” said Paul Reichler, lead lawyer for the Philippines.

The lawyer is of course talking about the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)  in The Hague favoring the Philippines in the case it filed against China ruling that the latter has no historic title over the South China Sea, even as it claims rights to the resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line, and that it has in fact breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by disallowing its people to fish and the government to conduct oil and gas exploration.

But is it really and truly a victory for the Philippines or is it just a landmark decision for the world to know and appreciate the legality of it?

How could Filipinos be euphoric of the victory when China has been defiant all along calling the case a farce, thus, boycotting the hearings at the PCA, and now rejecting the ruling, saying, that its people had more than 2,000 years of history in the South China Sea so that sovereignty and maritime interests belong to them and must be militarily defended accordingly?

How could Filipinos be euphoric of the PCA’s favorable decision when nothing will change and the ominous presence of the artificial islands furiously built in record time with military facility flying the China flag will continue to prevail?

Let us not talk anymore about the huge damage inflicted on the ecosystem under the sea when China turned the reefs into islands, for if the international community led by the U.S. has not been able to prevent them from claiming 90 % of the South China Sea with their nine-dash line policy, who are we to drive them out, much less defy?

Surely the decision did not sit well with China as the arbitral court has made them appear as a bully not only to the Philippines but to the other claimant-nation in the region as well, and so what are we to expect next from this piqued giant nation?

Or to put it in another context, what are we to do with China?

Our options, I would like to think, is simply to face realities.

The reality that the U.S. has no other interest in the area but to make sure that the freedom of navigation will continue to be respected by China.

The reality that China has established itself already in the area for better or worse and nothing can be done about it now but to be respected by all nations.

The reality that it is advantageous for the country to continue talking with the devil we know, the Americans, who has been our friend and ally for a long, long time.

The reality that it also imperative that we have to talk with the devil we least know, the Chinese, who we find now too close for comfort at our backyard, for whatever concessions we can get to help the lives of our fisher folks in areas concerned and the safety of our OFWs in China, in particular, and for the country, in general, in terms of having its exclusive economic zone guaranteed and respected as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the country’s exploitation of marine resources.

The reality that the country is weak, helpless and hapless against China, but will never be intimidated as to give up our sovereignty for what is legally ours, thus, the Philippines need the assistance, military or otherwise, of other nations willing to help like Japan and Australia.

It is interesting to know, and the world is watching us, how the Duterte administration is going to resolve this contentious issue of territorial dispute with a win-win result.

For all intents and purposes the PAC awarding the Philippines a favorable decision does not call for euphoric feeling.

More than a victory it is a landmark decision for the world’s consumption.

Hopefully such landmark decision will not turn into a flashpoint. (https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/militarization-the-south-china-sea/).

 

China having the last laugh

9-dashedEverything that the Philippines have done so far relative to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) sovereignty issue with China has been reasonable and legal – at least from our own perspective.

Unlike China, which uses the 9-dash line theory of “historical rights” to claim “indisputable sovereignty” over almost the entire South China Sea (SCS), the Philippines has simply followed and complied all these years with the ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) granting the Philippines, a coastal state, an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles of sea from its coastline. What this means is that the country has sovereign or exclusive rights to use and develop resources in and from the area.

But, sadly, what this also means is that China’s 9-dash line claim is eating up a good portion of the country’s EEZ, 80% according to experts, including our own WPS.

As if trumping the country’s sovereignty is not bad enough, affecting the livelihood of many Filipino fisher folks and limiting our access to resources underneath, China is even making us and other neighboring claimant countries more helpless with their awesome capability of making sophisticated artificial islands complete with runways out of existing atolls and reefs right at one’s own backyard.

Yet, China’s leader has the arrogance to say that with their presence in the area now, they will not bully their weak and poor neighbors. Rather, China will continue to seek resolution of the disputes on the basis of respect of historical facts and through discussions and negotiations, according to their leader.

Who is China fooling? Perhaps to those who are willing to kowtow to China’s hegemonic intentions, they will opt for bilateral talks to benefit them economically and, perhaps, militarily. But for those, like us, who wants them to respect UNCLOS, which is to say a resolution through multilateral approach, we will always be at the mercy of their veiled threats and aggressive behavior.

The Philippines has already made a bold and defiant step against China by bringing the country’s sovereignty case for resolution before the Arbitral Tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Apparently, the UN-backed arbitral tribunal has unanimously decided that it has the right to hear our case despite China’s utter vehemence of the WPS issue being resolved by arbitration.

The fact that the tribunal has considered the evaluation of the merits of the country’s legal assertion of declaring China’s 9-dash line illegal in the next proceedings, the government officials who presented this maritime sovereignty issue in The Hague hailed the tribunal’s opinion as a victory.

But is it really a victory for us?

For as long as China’s formidable and intimidating presence in the SCS will not disrupt the freedom of navigation and over-flights in the area, China could care less really what the UN-backed tribunal’s initial or final decision would be.

The U.S. can make as many naval patrol operations in the area as they want to, where China is said to have reclaimed approximately 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of land in the Spratly island chain since last year, and is now adding harbors, housing and airstrips, including those found in the WPS, but the fact that China has established impressive structures in the area that may be used for military purposes in the future, no doubt about that, only means that this extension of power and might will be there for good to have control over the rich resources in and underneath the 9-dash line that takes up 85% of the SCS.

It will be at the height of China’s benevolence if it could return to us 80% of the EEZ that has been taken away from us because of the 9-dash line claim. As it is, it will only be wishful thinking on our part.

In the end, everybody will see China having the last laugh because there is just no organization nor a nation in the world today that China fears such that it would give up everything it has started in the SCS for violating maritime laws.

So where does this leave a poor country like the Philippines and the other nations having a stake in the SCS?

I think for better or worse, we just have to start re-understanding the word ‘capitulation’ if we want peace and stability in a place where a fire-breathing dragon is found right at our own backyard.

That is the reality the country is facing with China today in the issue of maritime sovereignty in the WPS.

China cries foul over sovereignty issue in the South China Sea

 

The Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration hearing the case filed by the Philippines against China.

The Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration hearing the case filed by the Philippines against China.

For bringing the sovereignty issue in the South China Sea (SCS) before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands, China described the Philippines’ action as foul.

Well, to make it more melodramatic, China portrayed itself as the ‘victim’ of the Philippines’ stance in wanting to solve the territorial dispute in the SCS by arbitration and not by bilateral talks or negotiations and consultations between governments, as China wants it and sees it fit.

For this, the Philippines has irked China terribly prompting the giant nation to call the smaller, weak and poor nation the ‘real trouble-maker and rule-breaker in the region.’

Does the Philippines deserve to be called that just because the country is asking the arbitration tribunal to declare China’s nine-dashed line void and for China to respect instead the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles of sea (the West Philippine Sea) from its coastline, which the country is entitled to have by virtue of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?

Are Filipinos to be called ‘trouble-maker’ in the region just because we are asserting our legal rights over the portion of the SCS, which we call now the West Philippine Sea (WPS), and for that matter purposely grounded a dilapidated WWII-era ship with a handful of Filipino soldiers manning it, aptly describing it as the Philippines’ last line of defense against China’s efforts to control most of the South China Sea?

It must be noted that not only is China contented of claiming 85% of the SCS by virtue of historical grounds, but also wantonly, if not forcefully, still encroaches 80% of the Philippines’ EEZ.

How could one be a ‘victim’ if China has the arrogance and the capability to build artificial islands on disputed reefs, turning it into a military complex – even at your own backyard?

How could one be a ‘victim’ if China has the imperiousness to impose its will and ignore any ruling by the arbitration tribunal concerning the maritime case raised by the Philippines before it?

How could one be a ‘victim’ if China continues to have the swagger, rudeness and barbarity to order the Philippines to remove the grounded, decaying vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre, on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the WPS upon learning that it is being repaired to prevent it from falling apart?

The Philippines considers Ayungin Shoal, which lies 105 nautical miles (195 kilometers) southwest of Palawan, as being within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

“China once again urges the Philippines to immediately stop all illegal activities that infringe upon China’s sovereignty and maritime rights, and honor its commitment of towing away the vessel. China reserves the right to take further actions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

Doesn’t sound to me like a ‘victim’, but more like a consistent big bully, which China is in all manner, shape and form.

Why doesn’t China just ask the Filipino fishermen who are the real victims?