• An unmitigated setback for the Philippines


    Setting aside the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on the Philippines’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea will be an unmitigated setback for our country and people.

    Perhaps the Duterte officials concerned did not realize how foolhardy and irresponsible it is for the Duterte government to adopt such a policy, given the history of the dispute and the trials we went through to secure this favorable ruling.

    In contrast, our retreat will mean an incontrovertible triumph for China, a case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, which it will surely parade as vindication of its questionable claims.

    When the Hague court handed down its award last July 12, the entire country rejoiced as one over the declarative Filipino victory. And the world rejoiced with us, praised Filipino determination, and unanimously hailed the verdict because of its forthright stand on the side of international law, and the calm and clarity that it introduced into the increasingly confused situation in the disputed sea.

    Since then tensions in the disputed waters have not abated, because of China’s continued buildup—including fortifications– in its artificial islands and insistence on its claims. Just this week China and the US found themselves in a standoff because China confiscated a US drone, in waters that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

    President Duterte would betray the nation and the consensus of international opinion by announcing that we are turning our back on the verdict, and that we no longer care about the rights that it confers on us.

    What we get in return for retreat is only the theoretical goodwill of China, the Chinese on the Mainland and perhaps the few pro-PRC Filipinos of Chinese descent and China’s possible approval of a gift package of economic and financial assistance to our country.

    This is too pecuniary and meretricious a reason for an about- face in policy. We lose face and gain little.

    If adopted, it will diminish our country in the eyes of the international community. And it will dampen and discourage international support for any future initiative that we will undertake in international affairs.

    Regardless of the fact that it was the previous government and the Liberal Party that brought and argued the dispute before the Hague court, the government and the people have a joint responsibility to honor and defend the verdict, because national interest is involved and paramount.

    Decisions such as this bad proposed stand on the Hague tribunal ruling require long, careful, and expert study. It should not be left to the President to decide alone, but rather submitted to determination by consultation. This is why we have a full-fledged Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and a National Security Council (NSC).


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    1. Actually… the enforcement of the ICC ruling is very very hard to enforce.

      Here’s an abstract lifted from Gwen P. Barnes’ “The International Criminal Court’s Ineffective
      Enforcement Mechanisms” article.

      “Part I introduces the Rome Statute and highlights the portions of the Rome Statute that leave
      the ICC vulnerable to member states that violate the Rome Statute without any clear punishment
      for the violation.”

      It would be simplistic to say that Duterte, even if he wanted to, could enforce the ruling single-handedly. There is China and its claims to contend with. What do we expect him to do, wage war with China if China doesn’t concede?

    2. Victor N. Corpus on

      The PCA ruling by The Hague is a double-edged sword that can be good for us, or it can also be bad for us – depending on how we use it. It is a weapon that is best kept sheathed in its scabbard. Once it is unsheathed, its double blade can hurt the opponent; but more likely, it will hurt the wielder – us. Why so?

      China has already stated that they do not recognize the PCA ruling. They consider it null and void because an arbitration involves the consent of two contending parties who are willing to be arbitrated by the PCA; and this was not the case with the present ruling. According the China’s argument, they discovered those islands way back in 1279, and according to international law, the one who made the discovery and gave names to those places have the right of sovereignty. China claims sovereignty on those islands based on their history. RP claims those islands based on legality as promulgated by the PCA ruling. So even if we debate with China for a hundred, or even a thousand years, we will never come to an agreement. And eventually, the result will be WAR. That is why, there is that bad consequence if we unsheathe this double-edged sword. With the sword unsheathed, RP will not get a single drop of oil, nor a single cubic feet of gas, nor even a single fish in the disputed area. What we will get instead is war with all the missiles and bombs that war entails. That is what Filipinos will get if the PCA double-edged sword is unsheathed. Only the warmongers among us will be happy with this foolish option.

      Now, what about if we keep the PCA sword sheathed in its scabbard? To me, It will have much greater value for Filipinos if we keep it sheathed in its scabbard; as we can use it as an important bargaining chip with China when we finally sit down with them in formal negotiation to resolve the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea maritime dispute. Both sides can then agree to set aside the issue of sovereignty for the rest of the century; making clear that each side is keeping its respective sword and not surrendering it to the other side. This way, neither side loses face from their respective constituents. Only then can a real “win-win” negotiations between RP and China can begin.

      A real “win” for the Philippines is the inclusion of the Philippines as the easternmost terminal hub of the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century; becoming an important part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. With the Philippines as an important hub of the new silk road, we can then work for the revival of the ancient Galleon Trade Route that run from Guangzhou to Manila to Acapulco and on to Seville of Spain. The revival of the Galleon Route can include Oceania, North and South America through high-speed rails and ports courtesy of China. This way, it will also be a “win” for China as the OBOR initiative will then cover not three but six continents that literally circumnavigate the globe.

      As part of the “win” for RP, we can bargain with China to make Cotabato Port the Rotterdam of Asia that can be financed by AIIB. The perennial flooding in the Ligawasan Marsh can be addressed with dredging of the 16 rivers that feed into the marsh; including the Rio Grande River. The dredge materials can be used to reclaim land at the mouth of the Rio Grande de Mindanao where massive logistic facilities and select manufacturing can be located, using Rotterdam Logistic Hub as the model. The dredged rivers can, in turn, serve as water highways for rapid transport of goods, as well as irrigation source to irrigate the huge and nutrient-rich farmlands that will be freed from perennial flooding in the Ligawasan Marsh – making the latter the Halal Hub of Asia.

    3. Nothing can diminish the country under Dugong and his clowns. Philippines is already at bottom of the international community. It the laughing stock of the world and even third world countries are laughing.

      • Strange, which planet did you hail from? You seem to be talking about a different Philippines than what we know. The Philippines that we know is one of the best performing economy in the current year in Asia and current President has a higher approval rating compared to his predecessor. Try to get some psychiatric assistance, your delusions might be getting out of hand.

    4. It should not be left to the President to decide alone

      Everything is decided by the President of the Philippines. He controls everyone and everything.