Wednesday, July 6, 2011

B (Bully, Bribery, Bilateral Pacts, Bodyguard) S (Spratlys, Sino Saber-rattling, Sling Shot, Sea Law)

Let me start this article by publicly admitting my bias. I am a Filipino-American international lawyer with a Master of Laws Degree in International Law.

Whatever views I express  on the issue at hand, therefore, should be understood that it is coming from that perspective.
The Spratlys Islands is a chain of several hundred islands and reefs located in the busy maritime commercial path of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). These islands are known to be rich fishing grounds and believed to have vast deposits of oil and natural gas estimated to be about 17.7 billion tons. This is supposed to surpass even the reserves of Kuwait.
The Philippines has claims of ownership and jurisdiction over some parts of the Islands. So do China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Most recently, there were reports in Beijing about China’s planned installation of its most advanced oil rig in the West Philippine Sea.
“BULLY” and Sino Saber-rattling
During  Foundation Day to celebrate the 113th year of the Department of Foreign Affairs, P-Noy had this to say on the Chinese re the Spratlys Islands; "If we allow them to bully us, the next generation of Filipinos will find themselves squeezed into just one island. If we let them push us around, our 7,100 islands will dwindle into just two digits. It is not fair for others to claim what is clearly ours.”
The fact that the President described the Chinese behavior and approach as “bullying”, before a crowd of Philippine diplomats could actually mean a Call to Action for the latter to go ahead and “take the bully by the horns.”
In almost the same period, another Call to Action was made by Filipino-American Billionaire lawyer Loida Nicolas Lewis over the reports of Beijing’s planned installation of its most advanced oil rig in the West Philippine Sea.
Of course, Loida is doing this in her private capacity and as Chair of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG). The fact that she is a known supporter and friend of P-Noy is irrelevant. She had this to say in a You Tube broadcast; “This is an invasion, this is an intrusion, this is  an appropriation of land and oil that belong to the Philippines…..China is a bully. China is about to steal oil in our territorial waters.”
Quoting from the Philippine National Anthem she said, “Sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil.”  Then proceeded, “Here is a manlulupig, here is a bully, China who is about to rape our country, Mother Filipinas….. This is a Call to Action to all Global Filipinos……Let us fight with placards, let us fight with words. We are like David. Let us sharpen that stone and hit it to Goliath China.”
The broadcast ended with the following words from the same song, “Aming ligaya na pag-may nang-aapi, ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.”
As a supporter of both P-Noy and Loida, I know that they are sincere; they mean what they say and usually “put their money where their mouth is.”
China is a Goliath indeed by virtue of its vastly superior military forces of 2.17 million soldiers, extensive financial and economic resources and undisputed political influence in the community of nations. However, I am not so sure if it is as stupid as the Goliath that David was dealing with. We better have a sling and a stone that could not miss, penetrate Goliath’s defenses without difficulty and immobilize him so as to “bully” no more.
P-Noy also said during the DFA Foundation Day, “ the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands at West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) became complicated because the Arroyo administration included other countries in the exploration of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.”
Why would GMA allow it? It is alleged that in exchange for the grant of concessionary loans of $2 billion / yr or a total of $8 billion for 4 years which were easily sources of corruption, GMA had to give some concessions as well. These Arroyo concessions are costing the Philippines irreparable damage and could be within the realm of or as Ricky Carandang described as "Treason."

The best shot for the Philippines is International Law. This is the closest thing to Loida Lewis’ call to “fight with words” All the States involved in the Spratlys Islands dispute are all signatories to the Law of the Sea Convention. The position of all these States on maritime jurisdiction begin and end with the provisions of the Convention. As Maritime expert Professor Ian Townsend-Gault said, “there is nothing vague or speculative about the basic principles applicable in the South China Sea. The dotted lines indicated on Chinese and Taiwanese maps, the Philippine Kalayaan lines, and even the Vietnamese petroleum blocks designation, are now relegated to being merely of historical interest. “
The provisions on Exclusive Economic Zones (200 nautical miles from baselines) are quite clear and the doctrine of the continental shelf is a settled law. The International Court of Justice determined it in the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases of 1969.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Seabed Disputes Chamber were set-up precisely to deal with disputes.  There is Customary international law based on more than 65 ocean boundary agreements; jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice; and ad hoc courts of arbitration on maritime boundaries.
China, whose baseline is more than 900 nautical miles from the Spratlys is basing its claim on a map supposedly made during the Sung Dynasty on the 12th Century. International Law does not clearly support this assertion but China is a powerful member of the UN Security Council and it is determined to assert and enforce its claim.
BODYGUARD and SEA (Southeast Asia
U.S. State Sec. Hillary Clinton, DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario,  Ambassador Cuisia
To neutralize a bully, you may have to call on a bodyguard. The Philippines has a mutual defense treaty with the United States. That’s why the former now wants a reassurance from the latter.
It is also a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which believes in the right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion; and in the settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner.
Working with the group to deal with China using peaceful, diplomatic and legal means would be the wiser move.
The Philippines had concluded several bilateral agreements with China. More than 80% of them were made during  the Arroyo Administration under suspicious circumstances. P-Noy might want to pursue renegotiation of these agreements  for the mutual benefit of both.
 Laws  are made for the service of men. International laws are made for the service of Nations and men. China may want to display its MIGHT. But the Philippines can always assert its RIGHT!.

1 comment:

  1. The sovereignty of the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal is guided by International Law, specifically the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. This must be respected by China. The Philippines has been inviting China to the United Nations International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea regarding this matter but the Chinese refused to cooperate. This only gets to show that China is afraid to find out that the Shoal is really not theirs but that of our country (Philippines) based on International Law, particuarly the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. As mush as possible, the Philippines wants to settle the Scarborough Shoal dispute with China through diplomatic means but if China does not give in, there is no other way but to implement and enforce the full force of International Law by bringing it to the United Nations International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and let the forces of the realms of International Law prevail and thus, entitling the rightful owner of the said shoal. Hopefully then, it can be settled in the future.