CHINA’s ongoing military drills in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) only make the looming arbitration ruling “enforceably intelligent,” an expert said.
The Chinese navy is holding its military exercises in the waters around the Paracel Islands that started earlier this week and runs until July 11, a day before the scheduled issuance of award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Beijing’s maritime safety administration even prohibited other ships from entering the area within the week.
Professor Lionel Jensen, an expert on Chinese history, culture and politics, at the Notre Dame University deemed that the move was an apparent attempt by China to steal the thunder of the decision.
But it won’t work, he said.
“Do all you want. That’s fine. But in the end, it only makes the result more enforceably intelligent for people who are sitting on the side of the decision to say, ‘My god? Look at these people! The result was even out and look what they are doing?’” Jensen said at a student forum in Makati City Thursday night.
He claimed that the United Nations-backed tribunal will in no way rule in favor of China’s excessive nine-dash line claim, and the Philippines may use the award to assert its rights to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline.
With the backing of powerful nations that argue their freedom of navigation and overflight in the West Philippine Sea, Jensen said, Manila could position its navies to the area and drive away the Chinese.
“It’s possible. You have something that could be applied. You have to do it,” he said. “I think with US assistance, you can do what’s right.”
China has been persistent that it will neither accept nor honor the ruling as it questioned the jurisdiction of the tribunal to decide on the case.
Jensen said the ruling could only be enforced if the countries committed to the freedom of the seas will gather together and act on behalf of what has been decided and support the Philippines.
“If we abide by it, therefore, we have to work toward it,” he said.
“Once the decision comes out, then you now have the rules to play the game. It’s up for the countries concerned to play the game. If the Chinese do not abide, you have something that you could refer to,” he added.
Jensen said the new administration should not back off in the battle and spoil the efforts made by the previous government.
President Rodrigo Duterte, he suggested, should find a way to make a more coherent policy regarding the West Philippine Sea.