The Giant, The Pearl, and The Ruling

Claims over the West Philippine Sea have long incited tensions among countries in the South East Asian corridor. The disputed waters’ rich marine resources and potential oil reserves, along with its significant role in trade routing and general navigation, puts it at the fore of maritime concerns.

Claims over the West Philippine Sea have long incited tensions among countries in the South East Asian corridor. The disputed waters’ rich marine resources and potential oil reserves, along with its significant role in trade routing and general navigation, puts it at the fore of maritime concerns.

In the past years, tensions have particularly heightened between China and the Philippines. Amidst the supposed bilateral consultations, China has continued its activities in the area, altering the natural geomorphology and geology of the maritime features and causing irreversible damage to marine life. Its aggressive actions, such as that in the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012, have also persisted, prompting the Philippines to file a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitrations in The Hague Netherlands.

Last July 12, 2016, the Court finally issued its ruling in favor of the Philippines thereby invalidating China’s nine-dash claim. It was a landmark victory for many—the meek Pearl of the Orient Seas triumphing over Asia’s New economic giant. However, others also expressed concern, given the latter’s economic and military dominance over the former.

In a forum organized by the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ANZCHAM) titled "Post-Hague Ruling on West Philippine Sea Dispute Dispute", Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the country’s representatives in the case, expressed his optimism on the matter amid the mixed reactions over the ruling.  Citing similar international adjudications (e.g., Fiji-Tonga dispute on the Minerva Reefs), he looks forward to the Philippines’s eventual gain in the process.

Justice Carpio made reference to several provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both parties to the arbitration signed and ratified. These articles (e.g., Article 9, Annex VII and Article 11, Annex VII) qualify the decision as final and binding and obligate both China and the Philippines to comply in good faith.

However, as China’s resistance is expected, Justice Carpio suggested alternative courses of action that can be taken: move for the suspension of China’s seabed exploration permits and its application of extended continental shelf in the East China Sea. Both underscore the irony of China’s contention to the arbitration, since the concerned regulating bodies were constituted under the UNCLOS, to which—as the situations imply—China both submits and objects.

Aside from the Philippines, there are other countries rallying against China’s aggressive stance on the disputed waters. The world’s naval superpowers will want to protect their freedom of navigation and overflight and while other ASEAN countries will defend their exclusive right to the resources within their economic zones. Justice Carpio added that while international military relations seem tense, resorting to war is not plausible even for China and the United States—more so for the Philippines.

An International Marine Peace Park was also proposed, in view of an amicable approach to the issue. The proposal is supported specifically by marine ecologists from Taiwan, Philippines, and Vietnam, and it is seen to be for the interest of all the coastal states.

Certainly, the case summarizes a myriad of other issues that touch on other sectors and concern the world as a whole. The ruling has implications not only on diplomatic networks, local and foreign economy, and environmental sustainability; there are also references to social and cultural ideologies, especially with China and its sinocentrism, among others. All these must be considered in drafting the next steps for all the nations involved to jointly move forward.

Photos lifted from:
sc.judiciary.gov.ph (Justice Carpio)
Voice of America [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS