After the UN ruling, an Asean way to lasting peace


[Last of three parts]
FIRST of all, forget the idea that China can be pressured to follow the July 12 Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling against its “nine-dash line” claim on most of the South China Sea.

As fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao wrote last Friday, big powers like America, China and Russia disregard rulings of the United Nations and other international bodies when it suits them <>.

Hence, with China standing its ground, continued confrontation, one of three post-ruling scenarios cited in Part 2, would only escalate tensions, militarization, and war risk. The second scenario of conciliation with China would reduce frictions, but there still needs to be some way of defending the interests and claims of its neighbors.

Hence, the Philippines and the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should consider the third approach of collective security. (More on that scenario later.)

On putting pressure on China, while the United States has led Western and Japanese calls to abide by the PCA verdict, it hasn’t even ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea affirmed by the court. Worse, the US Navy routinely and willfully violates UNCLOS provisions to assert Washington’s idea of freedom of navigation.

In a yearly report to Congress, the US Navy lists how many sailings it has conducted in each country to challenge UNCLOS. Guess where the second-most intrusions happen: longtime ally the Philippines, next only to leading Middle East adversary Iran.

Washington opposes the provision granting archipelagoes the waters within their baselines as internal waters with full sovereign rights, except barring innocent passage.

Philippine internal waters include those between our islands and the vast Sulu Sea from Palawan to Mindanao. The Seventh Fleet sails into those internal waters to assert US opposition to our rights under the Convention.

If our leading ally does that, don’t expect China to respect UNCLOS rights it disputes.

The collective security scenario
So what’s this third option of collective security? Under this scenario, the Asean or its selected members collaborate for certain defense needs, instead of relying on big powers. Thus, the grouping’s ideal of neutrality is upheld.

Countries can collaborate for maritime operations to secure coastal areas, fight piracy and terrorism, and assert UNCLOS rights. In the South China Sea, those nations may include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Collaboration would cover such perennial problems as kidnappings by terrorists like the Abu Sayaff Group in Mindanao. Interdicting arms, contraband and human trafficking would be another fruitful area of collaboration, especially among the naval and marine police forces of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

What about asserting UNCLOS rights over exclusive economic zones and extended continental shelves. EEZs extend 200 nautical miles from a nation’s territorial baselines, while ECSs, which apply to the seabed, stretch up to 350 nautical miles outward.

Excluding the tongue-shaped demarcation of China’s “nine-dash line” claim, the network of broken lines in the map marks out the EEZs of named countries.

To assert EEZ and ECS rights, a nation deploys air and naval assets to patrol those vast expanses of sea and stop violators. If another country’s forces oppose efforts to assert the first nation’s UNCLOS rights, the latter may need to take military action.

In patrolling and enforcing EEZ and ECS areas, small nations can benefit from collaboration, with air and sea patrol work shared, and threats against one nation faced together with its partners.

Thus, collaboration among Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam could include a collective response against hostile forces targeting one country. In such a hypothetical confrontation, the threatening nation would find itself facing multiple responses over a much wider expanse of sea and air.

Moreover, if the hypothetical collaboration includes missiles, vessels and aircraft covering the EEZs of the five cited countries, those same forces could collectively restrict all ships passing the South China Sea on the way to or from the Malacca Strait, the main waterway toward West and South Asia and Europe.

So if a country dependent on South China Sea shipping lanes were to challenge the collective security group, it would find those vital routes constricted. And alternative passageways would pose challenges, too, since three of the hypothetical group members, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, straddle those detour sea lanes.

In sum, the collective security scenario can assert deterrent force over the South China Sea just as the US Seventh Fleet could, operating from the Philippines, but without threatening China itself with nuclear-capable assets.

Can it be done?
There are a zillion ifs and buts that can be cited to sink the collective security idea, and the biggest sinker would be: how to do it.

With nations in the envisioned group having territorial issues with each other, how can they agree to work together in securing maritime rights they may even dispute?

Answer: by resolving those disputes, as Indonesia and the Philippines did along their maritime border south of Mindanao, or setting them aside for now, so as to forge collective security. Indeed, the combined maritime force initiative may accelerate the settlement of bilateral issues.

This map is from Norwich University Online .

This map is from Norwich University Online <>.

Another big if is the deployment of military assets and the sharing of security duties. This will, of course, take much time and effort to work out, but with the promise of greater security, national leaders can fast-track negotiations.

Will certain big powers object and mount reprisals against the collective security group?

It’s unlikely that America and Japan would block maritime security collaboration, and most of their forces are far away, unless they get bases in the region. As for China, the initiative is far less threatening than America taking care of regional security.

So those are the possible aftermaths for the South China Sea after the UN ruling: confrontation, conciliation, and collective security. No one course would likely transpire in full, and the actual outcome would likely be a combination of alternative paths.

And the test of any emerging solution is, of course, the silence or loudness of guns across the South China Sea.


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  1. citizenhongkong on

    NOT an UN ruling nor a Court verdict, then what is the correct nomenclature of the 501 pages document issued by the PCA on 12 July 2016? It’s called Arbitration Decision (the “Award”). Anyone may download a copy of the said Award from PCA’s official website

    Unlike court judgments, arbitration awards themselves are not directly enforceable. A party seeking to enforce an arbitration award must resort to judicial remedies, called an action to “confirm” an award.

  2. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    19 July 2016

    I sincerely compliment columnist Ricardo Saludo for this column, “After the UN ruling, Asean way to lasting peace,” in The Manila Times of Jul 18, 2016.

    He has come up with the idea of a “Collective security scenario” on certain defense needs, between Brunei,Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam–a good idea at first blush.

    On serious examination, however, I wonder how such an idea could be implemented given the fact that surely China would torpedo it any way it can the very moment it is put forward by one of the suggested partners.

    Once China’ s vigorous opposition to the proposal goes forward, there is a very good chance that the proposal will simply “wither on the vine.”

    One way such a proposal could prosper and come to fruition is if the United States is the one who proposes it, and Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam come on board quickly and readily. China can be expected to howl like the bully that she is, but with the US as the leader, the other partners can be expected to hold their ground–and the collective security scenario could then be a Reality.

    That is a collective scenario which will leave China no choice but to behave the way it should under a rules-based international order, which should be as a CIVILIZED nation.


  3. One of the proper measures PL should take is to form better economic ties with China,even form partnership with China to harness its capital and techniques to increase the condition of PL’s economic development.

  4. Makes one think if America kept isolationist and not meddled during WW-II, Hitler’s master race would have completed his racial extermination job on all non Aryans, while in the far east any Asian lucky to survive can be slaves till they die of the thousand year Shogunate.

    Currently and Historically, all superpowers meddle and look for trouble, the U.S., Russia, China, the Holy Roman Empire. If ISIS, or some African or Baltic country is committing genocide, you can bet their victims are screaming for the U.S. to intervene. Wishing the U.S. would not meddle in our affairs, is the same as wishing that China would leave our territory alone, just wishful thinking.

    We should realize that we live in prophetic biblical times of wars and rumors of war, if we are a truly a Christian nation our best defense is to get right with Jesus.

  5. citizenhongkong on

    The best way to avoid calling a Stag a Horse or talking Black into White is to spend sometime to study the organization concerned what it actually is and, in this case the PCA’s official website which provides comprehensive information.

    The other website making a statement that PCA is not an UN Institution and has nothing to do with the UN is the UN International Court of Justice or the UN ICJ.

  6. citizenhongkong on

    Really don’t understand why UN ruling is still being cited by some people or the media while PCA already confirmed in his official web site that PCA is not a “court” in the conventional understanding of that term but an administrative organization with the object of having permanent and readily available means to serve as the registry for purposes of international arbitration and other related procedures, including commissions of enquiry and conciliation. PCA’s official website

    Strictly speaking, Permanent Court of Arbitration is just a commercial institution like other arbitration institutions worldwide i.e. providing arbitration services for revenue.

    There are fixed costs for certain procedures such as a non-refundable processing fee of €2000.

    For arbitration cases, there are no fixed costs, the costs can vary from case to case and the costs are negotiable.

  7. citizenhongkong on

    as an arbitration report rather than a ruling or verdict in response to his client and, in this case the Government of the Philippines.

  8. Roger Purdue on

    Despite the ruling by the PCA, to which – as I understand it – China is a signatory, China’s recent actions have shown that it is likely to continue to pursue its territorial ambitions in the S. China Sea. Moreover, alliances between the affected countries won’t pose much of a threat or a deterrent. Only the US can provide a real counterweight to China. It would be unwise, therefore, for the Philippines to turn its back on its superpower ally without prior unambiguous evidence of a climb-down by China.

  9. I am surprised at the ignorance of what this arbitration court is. It’s a special tribunal by PCA

    1. It has nothing to do with UN. UN has openly clarified this.
    2. It has nothing to do with International court of justice (ICJ), ICJ clarified this.
    3. It has nothing to do with International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,
    see, this is the proper place for disputes on UNCLOS.
    4. PCA special tribunal is for fee service, paid entirely by Phillipines.

    So, it is NOT a UN ruling!!!

    • Migs Doromal on

      Yep. Once again, the Yankees have take PINOY brown Monkeys for an expensive joyride.

      What is it with PINOYS that they embrace the Americans so warmly and hate the Chinese as much? Yet, they love to shop and hang around SM malls.

    • citizenhongkong on

      Jack says:
      July 19, 2016 at 5:52 am
      I am surprised at the ignorance of what this arbitration court is. It’s a special tribunal by PCA
      1. It has nothing to do with UN. UN has openly clarified this.
      2. It has nothing to do with International court of justice (ICJ), ICJ clarified this.
      3. It has nothing to do with International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,
      see, this is the proper place for disputes on UNCLOS.
      4. PCA special tribunal is for fee service, paid entirely by Phillipines.
      So, it is NOT a UN ruling!!!

      The above comment is `100% correct. PCA is not a Court and has no authority to issue a ruling or verdict whatsoever like a court does. This is a common sense. PCA is just a Commercial Institution surviving on revenue by providing arbitration services. Please refer to PCA’s official website for further information in this respect. It follows that the so-called ruling issued by PCA can only be treated as an arbitration report rather than a ruling or verdict in response to this client and, in this case the Government of the Philippines who has paid USD 30M counsel fee for the arbitration. Regret to note that the outcome may disappoint the majority of the people of Philippines but this is the fact. It’s cruel of course.

    • PNoy had been deceiving the nation, wasted about USD 30 millions as reported and made PH the laughing stock of the international community.


    It’s almost too late for PI to kick out the Chinese from the disputed island because previous administrations did not know how to deal with the intrusion and allowed the Chinese to build permanent infrastructures that give China a military base to project their power in the Pacific area. So what if PI won its case with the powerless and useless UN tribunal? China will not abide by it and says, “What will you do about it”? Nada. China is not retreating nor willing to dismantle their military base now. Pres. Duterte is left only with diplomatic option, thanks to PNoy who did a botch up job in dealing with the Chinese. Definitely, war is NOT an option here. And it’s unfair to coax the Americans to start a shooting war. China is not a push over and will not be pushed around. Is there a way to save face here to resolve the conflict? Ask your politicians for an answer.

  11. Amnata Pundit on

    An ASEAN version of NATO just might work basta hindi kasali ang mga kano. Alam naman natin that America is the only country that always goes around the world looking for trouble. Wala akong alam na gulo sa mundo na hindi kasali ang mga kano, meron ba? By their actions the Americans have made it immutable that the less America intervenes, the more chances there is for peace.

    • Tibet is under Chinese control. Seek out the Dalai Lama and ask if the Tibetans are at peace. They are peace-loving. But a small country. What Crimea is to the Russians, Tibet is to the Chinese. The Dalai Lama is often seen in the U.S.A. Does his presence in the U.S.A. count for Kano intervention? An opinion that is loaded with emotional undertones makes one see only what his emotions direct him to see.

    • Whaaat? Seriously? Have you heard of WW-2, which the Americans meddled in, had the US remained isolationist Hitler and his master race would have continued exterminating so called racially inferior peoples, including Filipinos. We would be either crematorium ashes if not slaves till we die to the thousand years Shogunate of Imperial Japan.

      No country has done more for for Free World, or accepted more Filipinos to live in their country like the US. Besides no one will rally behind the RP we are a leper to our neighbors. The US is the only thing keeping China from swallowing all of ASEAN.