MANILA — As the United Nations tribunal rules jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea conflict, Filipino progressives said it is the opportune time for the Aquino government to reject US intervention and pursue an independent foreign policy.
On Oct. 29, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction over seven of the 15 matters that the Philippines submitted for arbitration. The tribunal will hold further hearings before deciding on the remaining matters. The settlement of disputes in the arbitration court is part of the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas (Unclos).
Progressive solons hailed the tribunal’s decision, but urged the government to reject intervention by the US government, and continue its efforts for peaceful resolution.
Last week, the US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen patrolled the West Philippine Sea, to the consternation of China, as the warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of its artificial structure.
“The Aquino administration has to put into place and in motion a foreign policy independent from the saber-rattling provocations of other aggressor military powers, namely, the United States and Japan,” said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus.
“The Filipino people and other nations should hold China to task and convince it to participate in the PCA proceedings,” De Jesus added.
Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap said the US Navy patrols “would only worsen and complicate the situation and would drive China to deploy more forces.”
Hicap said the Aquino administration’s consent to the American sea patrols “establishes its submission to American hegemony in Asia-Pacific and is tantamount to violation of national sovereignty.”
The lawmaker said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should instead build more artificial reefs, such as the one located 100 nautical miles from Zambales and within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which had served as refuge for fishermen. Instead of relying on foreign military forces, Hicap said the AFP could shift its resources to securing the country’s territory to “deter further Chinese encroachment and to preserve the sources of livelihood of Filipino fishermen.”
Ph did not abuse Unclos
China has stated that it “will not participate nor accept arbitration,” insisting that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to resolve the conflict, and the Philippines’ unilateral submission to the court violates the Unclos.
In its ruling, the PCA noted that both the Philippines and China are signatories to the Unclos, and that arbitration is an integral part of the convention. It said that the mere act of initiating an arbitration does not abuse the Unclos.
The tribunal ruled jurisdiction on the following seven matters:
- Scarborough Shoal generates no entitlement to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ);
- Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal and Subi Reef are low-tide elevations and generate no entitlement to EEZ, territorial sea, or continental shelf and are not features capable of appropriation, by occupation or otherwise;
- Gaven Reef and McKennan Reef (including Hughes Reef) are low-tide elevations, generate no entitlement to EEZ, territorial sea, or continental shelf, but ther low-water line maybe used to determine the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Namyit and Sin Cowe may be measured;
- Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef generate no entitlement to EEZ, territorial sea, or continental shelf;
- China has unlawfully prevented Philippine fishermen from pursuing their livelihoods by interfering with traditional fishing activities at Scarborough Shoal;
- China has violated its obligations under the Convention to protect and preserve the marine environment at Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal;
- China has breached its obligations under the Convention by operating its law enforcement vessels in a dangerous manner causing serious risk of collision to Philippine vessels navigating in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal. (bulatlat.com)