WE think the Foreign Affairs department’s statement about the new official map of China was too mild. The DFA gently called it “unreasonably expansive” because it includes areas of the Philippines as part of Chinese territory.
We would have called it “China’s cartographic invasion” of the Philippines. But then, of course, the DFA must always be diplomatic and not sound warlike.
“We reiterate that such a publication only shows China’s unreasonably expansive claim that is clearly contrary to international law and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in the DFA statement.
The new official map of China marks a huge area of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as part of Chinese jurisdiction, encroaching on the territories of its neighbors– the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
“It is precisely such ambitious expansionism that is causing the tensions in the South China Sea,” Jose said.
China claims 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, a major shipping route and home to groups of islands, rocks, reefs and cays. Beijing says its claim over the resource-rich waters is indisputable.
China has snubbed the Philippine arbitral claim in the West Philippine Sea. It has been building there concrete structures, including airstrips, on Philippine reefs and occupying and preventing Filipinos from fishing and staying in our shoals.
Prof. Harry Roque calls it as it is
Last Sunday, at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International Law at the Chuo University Law School in Tokyo, University of the Philippines professor Harry L. Roque Jr. correctly said China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration and its unilateral acts in building artificial islands in the disputed maritime area of the Spratlys constitute a “serious breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), since as a party to the Convention, China agreed to refer all matters involving interpretation and application of the Unclos to the compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure of the Convention.”
Roque is the Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of international Legal Studies. He told the participants in the conference in Tokyo that the international community took a very long time to agree on the provisions of Unclos because all countries of the world wanted the Convention to be the “Constitution for the seas.”
Roque said, “By prohibiting reservations and by adopting all provisions on the basis of consensus, it was the intention of the world community to do away with the use of force and unilateral acts in the resolution of all disputes arising from maritime territory.”
Recently Judge Xue Hanquin, the Chinese judge in the International Court of Justice, expressed the view that states–like China– that had made declarations when they ratified the Unclos are deemed to have opted out of the dispute settlement procedure of the Convention.
Roque debunked that view. He noted that China’s subsequent reservations only as to specific subject matters from the jurisdiction of the Unclos dispute settlement procedures prove that China agreed to be bound by the procedures. “This means that China is under a very clear obligation to participate in the proceedings, if only to dispute the jurisdiction of the tribunal,” Roque said.
He expressed the international community’s concern over China’s recent resort to the use of force in bolstering its claim to the disputed territories.
China has been building artificial islands on Johnson South Reef and expanding its artificial island on Fiery Cross reef, and deploying its naval forces to ward off any opposition.
“These constructions are happening in the face of China’s snub of the arbitral proceedings which precisely impugns China’s legal rights to do so. Clearly, China’s conduct is not only illegal as prohibited use of force, but is also contemptuous of the proceedings,” Roque said.
The Philippines is petitioning the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to declare that China’s nine-dash line marking of its claim is illegal since it is not sanctioned by the Unclos. The Philippine claim also asked the Hague-based arbitral tribunal that four “low-water elevations,” so-called because they are only visible during low tide, and where China has built artificial islands, be declared as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, and that the waters outside of the 12 nautical miles of Panatag shoal be declared as part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Roque rebutted China’s claim that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territory and hence, the controversy cannot be resolved under the Unclos. “Clearly, the three specific prayers of the Philippines involve interpretation and application of specific provisions of Unclos relating to internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zones, islands and low tide elevations. While the Spratlys dispute without a doubt also involves land territories, these are not the subjects of the Philippine claim, Roque said.
May the leaders of the People’s Republic of China decide to abide by the rule of international law.