South China Sea – The way forward in the Philippines vs China case: Inquirer columnist

April 27, 2016/ Evan Garcia, Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network via straitstimes

In the coming months, the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to render its ruling on the Philippine case vs China, which was initiated in January 2013.

The case has generated vigorous public discourse in the Philippines and all over the world.

Filipino students protest in Manila against China's aggression in the South China Sea
Courtesy: AFP via straitstimes

This global discourse encompasses not just the particulars of the Philippine case-namely, the maritime entitlements and the rights of coastal states under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

It is broader, discussing principles that should underpin relations between nation-states, particularly the rule of law, self-restraint, and non-use of force or intimidation in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The Philippine case is not intended to gratuitously antagonise China.

On the contrary, it is a peaceful, nonviolent, transparent and lawful method chosen by the Philippines in response to China’s unilaterally aggressive actions to pursue its unlawful claims to virtually the entire South China Sea.

Though our case is designed to protect the maritime entitlements of the Philippines, it is, as said earlier, of much greater regional and global importance as a sincere attempt to promote the rule of law in managing international differences.

The Philippine motivation has been clearly and consistently presented.

It is understood and supported all over the world.

Beijing’s refusal to participate in this case is perhaps the greatest lost opportunity in recent times for building a law- and rules-based regional order, where right rather than might can prevail by the free consent of all countries.

Our neighbourhood, the Asia-Pacific region-an engine of global growth and geopolitical fulcrum in the 21st century-is in a state of flux.

As such, it behooves nations to persevere in pursuing the future we envision for our region’s security architecture: one that is stable and predictable, to enable our peoples to live in peace and prosperity and where reason, not power, prevails, and the rule of law abides in its fullest meaning.

As much as it emanates from our constitutional mandate to protect the country’s national interest, our peaceful and legal response is also in keeping with our obligation as a responsible member of the community of nations.

Article II (Section 2) of the 1987 Constitution “renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity with all nations.”

In his remarks before the Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 7, 2015, then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the Philippines has adhered to its rights and obligations under the 1982 Unclos in good faith. Read more…

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