Posts Tagged ‘international law’

China believes that fishing and oil industries from the South China Sea may amount to trillions of dollars — What does the Philippines get?

July 20, 2018

NATIONAL papers talk about the Spratly Islands as belonging to us, well and good. What’s then all the protests about?

The Spratly Islands were, in the past, coral islets mostly inhabited by seabirds. They consist of 18 islands but, according to Chinese sources, the Spratlys consist of 14 islands or islets, 6 banks, 113 submerged reefs, 35 underwater banks and 21 underwater shoals.

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After so many claims and disputes of nearby surrounding countries, the international courts decided in favor of the Philippines. So, the Spratly Islands belong to us. However, claims and counter claims as to which country these islands belong to have not waned.

Aside from us, China insists on its historical rights over the islands, and so do Brunei, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. This is now what we call the South China Sea Disputes involving island and maritime claims.

What’s there to fight about? The Philippines, Malaysia and other countries began referring to the Spratly Islands as included in their own territory as far back as the 1970s. The Philippines started exploring the area in 1976 until gas was discovered. However, China complained and its protests halted the exploration. President Ferdinand Marcos then in 1978 issued Presidential decree No. 1596, declaring the north-western part of the Spratly Islands or the Kalayaan Island Group as Philippine territory.

The first Philippine oil company discovered an oil field off Palawan in 1984, which is an island province bordering the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea. These oil fields supply 15 percent of annual oil consumption in the Philippines.

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The whole contested area seems to parallel the crude oil output of Kuwait in case it undergoes serious exploration and production. It has been speculated to be the new Persia related to oil production. In addition, the abundant fishing opportunities in the area are strong incentives for the disputes. The South China Sea is believed to have accounted for ten percent of fishing harvests worth billions of dollars in the world resulting in clashes between Philippine and foreign vessels. China seems to believe that fishing and oil industries from the South China Sea may amount to trillions of dollars.

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Aside from these, the region is also one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Crude oil transported by sea passes through this sea way and accounts for more than half the tonnage of the world’s transported crude oil. It is claimed that the traffic here is three times bigger than that passing through the Suez canal and greater too than the business traffic in the Panama Canal. Oh oh, no wonder the scramble for ownership?

To add, the US and China are at odds over the area because of international rights to free access. The USA’s free access to this region is good for its economic and geopolitical interests.

So that’s the picture! The claims of six other sovereign nations will go on despite the Philippines’ being bestowed ownership by international courts. Vietnam is aggressive on this and so are several of the other nations. Now, we have protesters urging our government to fight China and all other nations expecting ownership of the Spratlys despite the international court’s decision.

Should we fight for our rights over the islands that have been naturally inhabited by birds since the beginning of our knowledge, or should we opt for peace by sharing the bounty of the South China Sea with all the nations aggressively fighting for this area too? In other words, should we opt for peace…or WAR?

I love you Baguio!




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.


Council of nations could determine the Philippines’ territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea

July 19, 2018
 / 05:12 AM July 19, 2018

This is regarding Dr. Edilberto C. de Jesus’ piece, “Return to great power geopolitics” (6/2/18).

As an expatriate for 30 years, I sat as founding member of a public safety committee in one of the northerly territories in North America. From time to time, I had discussions with delegates of the Circumpolar Conference and Arctic Council that deals with iffy issues on what to do with the resources in the Arctic Ocean, which borders the coastlines of Russia, the Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, Canada and Alaska, without resorting to war. Emerging military and economic power China, and past imperial powers like Great Britain and Spain, have expressed their desire to be invited on observer status to such collective bodies.

De Jesus seems to be nervous of China. But, to my mind, China is not the only one that makes Filipinos nervous. The United States, the superpower that did not sign treaties they perceive would curtail their liberty to navigate around the globe, is cruising their battleships around and flying their bombers over contested sandbars and coral reefs inhabited by migrant fish.

The Philippine claim of sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea ought to be granite solid and unchallengeable. What are the basic elements, or the requirements, for establishing territorial sovereignty?

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Did we inherit those sandbars and coral reefs? Or were they ceded to us by a colonial power? Quasi purchase—and if so, from whom? Did we discover them? If we discovered West Philippine Sea, how did we exercise control over the sandbars and coral reefs?

If we view the world from a biblical perspective, no one owns a thing, even an iota of dust. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything therein.” Silver and gold “are mine,” says the Lord. Humankind is the delegated steward, but ownership belongs to Him.

To resolve the pestering issue over “ownership” of WPS, perhaps nations that claim a stake in the controversial body of water should come together and form a council of nations. Member nations must seek active partnership in the economic development of the region, rather than show their fangs and snarl at each other.

It is easy to start a war. But, how easy is it to stop a war?

Bob Gabuna,

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China Is Winning in the South China Sea

July 18, 2018

The U.S. should respond more vigorously to Beijing’s violations of international law.

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Two years after an international tribunal rejected expansive Chinese claims to the South China Sea, Beijing is consolidating control over the area and its resources. While the U.S. defends the right to freedom of navigation, it has failed to support the rights of neighboring countries under the tribunal’s ruling. As a result, Southeast Asian countries are bowing to Beijing’s demands.

The tribunal’s main significance was to clarify resource rights. It ruled that China cannot claim historic rights to resources in waters within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of other coastal states. It also clarified that none of the land features claimed by China in the Spratlys, in the southern part of the South China Sea, generate an exclusive economic zone.

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In late July 2017, Beijing threatened Vietnam with military action if it did not stop oil and gas exploration in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, according to a report by the BBC’s Bill Hayton. Hanoi stopped drilling. Earlier this year, Vietnam again attempted to drill, and Beijing issued similar warnings.

Other countries, including the U.S., failed to express support for Vietnam or condemn China’s threats. Beijing has also pressured Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines to agree to “joint development” in their exclusive economic zones—a term that suggests legitimate overlapping claims.

Meanwhile China is accelerating its militarization of the South China Sea. In April, it deployed antiship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers to artificial islands constructed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef. In May, it landed long-range bombers on Woody Island.

Chinese envoy to the Philippines Xiao Jinhua, right, said that the Philippines was not and would not be a province of China.  Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi Jr., File

Beijing says it can do as it wishes on its own territory. But under international law, Mischief Reef isn’t Chinese. The 2016 tribunal decision made clear that jurisdiction over a low-tide elevation lies with the country in whose territorial sea or exclusive economic zone it is located, and no other country can claim sovereignty. Because Mischief Reef is located in the Philippines zone, the Philippines has jurisdiction over it.

Sovereignty over the rest of the features in the South China Sea continues to be fiercely contested. As I wrote in these pages last year, international law on the responsibility of an occupying state in a disputed area is far from clear, so Beijing’s actions are at best in a legal gray zone.

While Beijing’s dramatic military buildup in the South China Sea has received much attention, its attempts at “lawfare” are largely overlooked. In May, the Chinese Society of International Law published a “critical study” on the South China Sea arbitration case. It rehashed old arguments but also developed a newer one, namely that China is entitled to claim maritime zones based on groups of features rather than from individual features. Even if China is not entitled to historic rights within the area it claims, this argument goes, it is entitled to resources in a wide expanse of sea on the basis of an exclusive economic zone generated from outlying archipelagoes.

But the Convention on the Law of the Sea makes clear that only archipelagic states such as the Philippines and Indonesia may draw straight archipelagic baselines from which maritime zones may be claimed. The tribunal also explicitly found that there was “no evidence” that any deviations from this rule have amounted to the formation of a new rule of customary international law.

China’s arguments are unlikely to sway lawyers, but that is not their intended audience. Rather Beijing is offering a legal fig leaf to political and business elites in Southeast Asia who are already predisposed to accept Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. They fear China’s threat of coercive economic measures and eye promises of development through offerings such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Why did Washington go quiet on the 2016 tribunal decision? One reason is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s turn toward China and offer to set aside the ruling. The U.S. is also worried about the decision’s implications for its own claims to exclusive economic zones from small, uninhabited land features in the Pacific.

The Trump administration’s failure to press Beijing to abide by the tribunal’s ruling is a serious mistake. It undermines international law and upsets the balance of power in the region. Countries have taken note that the tide in the South China Sea is in China’s favor, and they are making their strategic calculations accordingly. This hurts U.S. interests in the region.

The U.S. still has a chance to turn things around. It must coordinate a regional and international effort to insist that Beijing abides by international law. Coastal states must be supported in standing up to any incursions into their exclusive economic zones, including through coastal state-initiated legal action.

There must also be greater pushback against Beijing’s claims that China is entitled to do as it likes on its own territory. In all of this, the U.S. will have greater credibility if it finally accedes to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. These efforts will be critical to defend a rules-based order against China’s bid for hegemony in the region.

Ms. Kuok is an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia and a senior research fellow at the Centre for Rising Powers, University of Cambridge.


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See also:

China won’t allow Philippines to fall into a ‘debt trap’: envoy



Zhao: China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into debt trap



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Iran lodges complaint against US over renewed sanctions

July 17, 2018

Iran has lodged a complaint with the International Court of Justice against the United States’ reimposition of sanctions, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The complaint was registered the previous day, spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on the ministry’s website.

© AFP | Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses economists in Tehran on July 16, 2018

The goal is “to hold US accountable for its unlawful re-imposition of unilateral sanctions,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of US contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations. It’s imperative to counter its habit of violating (international) law,” he added.

The complaint came in response to Washington’s decision in May to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Tehran says the action violates international obligations, including the 1955 US-Iran Treaty of Amity — an agreement signed well before Iran’s 1979 revolution, but which is still invoked in ongoing legal battles.

Iran and the US have not had diplomatic relations since 1980 when American embassy officials were held hostage in Iran.

Nuclear-related sanctions will be reimposed by Washington in two phases in August and November, seeking to bar European and other foreign companies from doing business with Iran and blocking its oil sales abroad.

The ICJ is already due to hear a complaint on October 8 that Iran lodged two years ago against the United States for freezing around $2 billion (1.7 billion euros) of its assets held abroad.


Philippines Must Do More In South China Sea To Support International law

July 17, 2018

Despite the bogey of war that President Duterte has raised every time China’s transgressions in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea (WPS) is brought up, up to 8 out of 10 Filipinos still believe the government should enforce the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that favored the country’s claims over disputed territories in the area.

In two surveys conducted just weeks before the second anniversary of the Court’s decision, 73 and 80 percent of respondents asked by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, respectively, said Mr. Duterte should assert Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.


 / 05:08 AM July 17, 2018

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Citing loans and investments from China, the President has set aside the ruling, while his Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has declined to show the “50 to 100” protests that he claimed the Philippines has lodged against its northern neighbor. Malacañang’s policy of appeasement appears only to have emboldened China to step up its militarization efforts in the disputed waters, where it has installed military-grade runways, hangars and retractable roofs for anticruise missiles on seized islands. It has also harassed Filipino fishermen in the country’s exclusive economic zone, destroyed reefs and corals, harvested marine resources, and even prevented the Philippine military from erecting shelter from the weather and bringing in supplies for soldiers stationed on Philippine-held shoals.

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By setting aside the ruling, the country also stands to lose 130 billion barrels of oil, gas and mineral deposits in the WPS, as well as territories three times the size of Quezon City, warned Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio. Already, “China has been taking half of the annual fish catch in the South China Sea to feed 1.4 billion people,” the magistrate added.

Based on international law, the Philippines’ failure to protest encroachment on its territory is as good as giving it up, Carpio said, adding that the government should file a protest with the United Nations or China itself.

Carpio also debunks the administration’s claim that war is the only other alternative to appeasement, citing the prohibition on war in the Philippine Constitution and the UN Charter.

Instead of playing “willing victim and abettor” to China’s aggressive moves in the WPS, as former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario put it, Carpio has suggested alternative approaches, among them arbitration which, he said, the UN Charter expressly recognizes as a peaceful means of settling disputes. Arbitration is also part and parcel of diplomacy, which the government has repeatedly invoked as the preferred response to China’s willful disregard of the ruling.

Gaining the support of the community of nations is foremost, added Del Rosario, “whether through multilateralism at the UN, or with Asean, or through our bilateral engagements with other states, or an all-out effort in pursuing all of the aforementioned.”

But with the Duterte administration’s defeatist stance over the issue, Carpio said the task of “keeping alive the [arbitral] Award within our country” has fallen on every Filipino … “[who] has a civic duty to preserve and protect the Award so that the next administration can enforce [it].”

It is also every Filipino’s duty, Carpio said, to inform the other peoples of the world “that China’s compliance with the Award is essential to the survival of Unclos as the governing law for the oceans and seas of our planet.” China’s noncompliance would mean the “collapse of the rule of law in the oceans and seas,” he warned. “What will prevail will be the rule of the naval canon.”

The administration’s passive approach to China appears to have roused dissenters to up their game. Last week, huge tarpaulins hailing the Philippines as a province of China were seen hanging from several footbridges in prominent streets in Metro Manila, and even near the airport. For maritime affairs expert Jay Batongbacal, the mocking tarpaulins mark “a turn in the intensity” of protests against Malacañang’s China policy. “It’s when the people begin to be like that—jovial and jok[ing] about the administration—that signals a loss of support and respect,” he added.

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That notion sounds more than plausible, given the overwhelming number of Filipinos who think this administration hasn’t done enough to defend the country’s rights against its bullying neighbor. But will Malacañang even deign to take heed of that ominous public sentiment?

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Philippines now ‘willing victim’ in South China Sea — “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China”

July 12, 2018

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Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – July 12, 2018 – 10:55am

MANILA, Philippines — Two years after a United Nations-backed tribunal handed down its ruling on the arbitration case on the South China Sea, the positions of both the Philippines and China remain “less than acceptable.”

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday lamented that the Philippines had set aside the landmark ruling.

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Activists protest Chinese reclamation work in the South China Sea, part of which Manila claims and calls the West Philippine Sea. Credit KJ Rosales, file

“The Philippines had two years to take advantage of its position to develop and obtain the support of many countries whose principles are aligned with our own and with whom our own voice could be magnified. Sadly, however, this was not made to happen,” Del Rosario said in a forum organized by independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

Del Rosario, who led the Philippines in its arbitration case against China, stressed that the ruling was also beneficial to other countries relying on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The  arbitration ruling was also beneficial to all states determined to maintain peaceful relations by committing to international law.

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

“In this light, we must as well consider our own country’s character since we have once been a reliable advocate for international law,” Del Rosario said.

READ: DFA urged to bare 100 protests filed vs China

The Philippines has become “a willing victim” and “an abettor” for its current policy in the disputed waters, he added.

“What may we call one that acquiesces to the abuses against it? Answer: a willing victim,” Del Rosario said.

“What may we call one that defends an aggressor at every opportunity? Answer: an abettor,” he added.

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Del Rosario

‘China, a grand larcenist’

China, meanwhile, is a “grand larcenist” and “international outlaw” for unlawfully taking the property of others and refusing the rule of law.

Moving forward, Del Rosario noted that the Philippines still has opportunities to promote rule of law, whether through multilateralism with the UN or ASEAN or through bilateral engagements.

“To close, we reiterate our position that coercive diplomacy has no place in a rules-based international order,” Del Rosario said.

He reiterated that Filipinos should urge the government to raise the country’s indignation against China.

“Finally, we need a of our friends in the community of nations who believe in the rule of law to help us. But before we can hope for help, we must first demonstrate that we are worth helping,” he said.

The July 12, 2016 ruling effectively invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The Chinese government, however, refused to acknowledge the arbitration and has since installed anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers on its outposts in the contested waterway.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 12, 2018 – 3:25pm

Social media users, including former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, are reporting seeing banners saying “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China” hanging from overpasses in parts of Metro Manila.

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The sightings coincide with the second anniversary of an arbitral tribunal ruling that China’s sweeping nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea has no legal basis. The Philippines has opted to play down the ruling and focus on nurturing better political and economic relations with China.

It is unclear who put up the banners, which are a possible reference to a “joke” that President Rodrigo Duterte told Chinese-Filipino business leaders in February.

“He (Xi) is a man of honor. They can even make us ‘Philippines, province of China,” we will even avail of services for free,” Duterte said in apparent jest. “If China were a woman, I’d woo her.”

The Palace said the remark was meant to impress the audience, who were Filipino citizens of Chinese descent.

July 12, 2018 – 3:25pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in response to criticism from former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario of the Duterte administration’s handling of issues in the West Philippine Sea, says: “We do not agree with those who lost control of territory by their confrontational hubris.”

He says President Rodrigo Duterte has instead “forged friendship which has obtained benefits for our people, boosted investment and trade for our economy, reduced the threat of conflict, and opened the door to confidence-building talks between ASEAN and China.”

He says issues with China are handled through a dialogue between friends and not as an argument between adversaries.

“All this time, we are building up our capabilities to eventually assert our sovereign rights and interests. That is the policy that works for our nation,” he says.

July 12, 2018 – 12:18pm

The Quezon City government has ordered its Public Safety personnel to remove tarpaulins that refer to the Philippines as a province of China.

In a Palace briefing earlier Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said “enemies of the government” are behind the banners.



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Some of China’s military bases in the South China Sea

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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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Chinese bombers

South China Sea: Time for a different Philippine narrative on maritime dispute with China

July 7, 2018

Since the stunning victory over China in 2016, the official story has been defeatist

Soon, it will be two years since the Philippines overwhelmingly won in its maritime dispute against China. But during this time, the official narrative in the Philippines has been one with strong defeatist tones.

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug


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From Day 1, July 12, 2016, when the international arbitral tribunal issued its decision invalidating China’s 9-dash line and clarifying the status of certain features in the South China Sea, this ruling has never been given the national attention it deserved. It has not been used as leverage in the country’s dealings with China. It has not been in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ talking points.

It has not been part of the country’s diplomatic arsenal.

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Yes, we won, officials say, but…

  • China is our source of economic deliverance. China will rebuild war-torn Marawi. China will invest heavily in the government’s “Build, Build, Build”
    program. Millions of Chinese tourists will boost our tourism industry. China is our new source of weapons.
  • China is a dear friend who, unlike the European Union, is nonchalant about the deadly drug war that has killed thousands and has led to a crushing wave of impunity.

These buts drown out the gains of July 12, 2016, weakening the Philippine position, making our country’s voice part of the chorus of approval of China in the region.

Let us not be taken by the official story. It’s time to talk about a different narrative.

Let’s go back to the story of Philippines vs. China, the historic arbitration case that reverberated in various parts of the world. As a law professor from the University of Geneva said, “July 12, 2016 is a date that will remain etched in the history of international adjudication.”

Let’s go back to the almost two decades of back-and-forth with Beijing when our diplomats asserted Philippine rights over parts of the South China Sea – only to be rebuffed with its stock response that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over this vast area.

Let’s hear from our scholars, experts, and diplomats on how to make use of our legal victory and start a national conversation on this crucial issue.

Historic case

In my new book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines won its maritime case against China, I tell the story of this victory that gave the country so much – a maritime area larger than the total land area of the Philippines, rich in resources – but has since been disregarded by the government.

First of all, the case is historic. It is the first to interpret the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) definitions of rocks, islands, and low-tide elevations; the first case to be filed by a South China Sea claimant state against China; and it is the first case to address the scope and application of the Unclos provision on protection and preservation of the environment.

This book addresses why President Benigno Aquino III took China to Court. Among others, he particularly remembered the quip of one ASEAN senior leader: “There are big countries and there are small countries. That’s the way of the world.” He mulled over this and thought that it was precisely the law that would serve as the great equalizer.

With this as anchor – the law as the great equalizer – Aquino decided, with the approval of the Cabinet, the leaders of Congress and two past presidents, to sue China.

In January 2013, the Philippines began its legal battle. It filed a “notification of statement and claim.”

More than year later, the Philippines submitted its memorial, like a plea, which reached more than 3,000 pages. It was a product of massive research in history, international law, geology, hydrography, marine biodiversity, and cartography. This included 10 volumes of annexes, which contained maps, nautical charts, expert reports, witnesses’ affidavits, historical records, and official communications.

Almost two decades of written exchanges between the Philippines and China, including notes verbale, were made public. Intelligence reports of the Navy, the Western Command of the Armed Forces, and the Department of National Defense were also submitted to the tribunal.

This was a first in the country: that diplomatic cables and intelligence documents were revealed to the public, a fascinating trove of our diplomatic history.

The Philippine story also unfolds in the transcripts of the oral hearings in The Hague which capture the essential points of the case. Paul Reichler and his team at Foley Hoag used the richly-documented diplomatic history of the Philippines-China dispute in their arguments before the tribunal.

These transcripts, the Philippine memorial, the awards (or the tribunal’s decisions) on jurisdiction and merit are accessible reading to non-lawyers like me. They can be downloaded from the website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

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Despite the stunning victory, why was the Philippines so glum about a historic ruling that was on its side? Why did it choose to bury a euphoric moment instead of using the victory to galvanize a nation?

The answer lay in the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte. He held a different view: his heart and mind were with China.

The Duterte government has taken a defeatist stance despite the immensity of what the Philippines had gained from the ruling. Duterte once said that the Philippines was “helpless” in the face of China’s might. For him, the choices in dealing with China were extreme, either to talk or to go to war. He has framed foreign policy in a false dichotomy.

While the story of Philippines vs. China offers hope and inspiration, it is the aftermath that offers more challenges. Rock Solid gives a few prescriptions on how to make the tribunal’s decision work, but there are definitely more ideas out there worth exploring.

Many have said that international pressure can encourage the implementation of the award – but friendly countries have to take the lead from the Philippines.

In the region, the award benefited not only the Philippines but other Southeast Asian states which have made claims to parts of the South China Sea. It was clear from the ruling, as Reichler explained, that “if China’s nine-dash line is invalid as to the Philippines, it is equally invalid to other states bordering the South China Sea like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and the rest of the international community.”

Making the tribunal ruling work and seeing it come to fruition, partly or fully, will take a long time, way beyond a single president’s term. It will require strategic thinking anchored on a strong sense of justice, equity, and sovereign rights. –


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Playing By The Rules is What Trump’s Trade War Is All About

July 7, 2018

China has never accepted the liberal order — or its values.

Not going great.

Photographer: Kyodo News/Getty

As the trade war between the U.S. and China escalates, with President Donald Trump imposing tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, both sides are trying to portray themselves as victims of an unconstrained unilateralist rival. They’re both wrong: This dispute is about something much bigger.

For many years, American foreign policy adopted a fairly strong pro-China stance. The U.S. was a major proponent of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and took no direct policy actions in response to its long-running manipulation of the yuan. It advocated for China’s development and tried to integrate it into the broader international system, despite China’s abuses in areas such as intellectual property.

All along, America’s goal was to avoid conflict, get China to reform and open its economy, and assimilate it into a system built around open markets and liberal values. The problem was that China never really accepted this system.

As Princeton professor Aaron Friedberg recently described the conflict:

America’s post-Cold War strategy for dealing with China was rooted in prevailing liberal ideas about the linkages between trade, economic growth and democracy, and a faith in the presumed universality and irresistible power of the human desire for freedom. The strategy pursued by China’s leaders, on the other hand, was, and still is, motivated first and foremost by their commitment to preserving the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on domestic political power.

A rapidly growing China that respected liberal norms and rules would’ve been widely welcomed. Europe, the U.S. and Japan have all engaged in long-running disputes with each other, but they also share an understanding of what the rules are and an ultimate vision of more open markets. China doesn’t share that vision; in fact, it sometimes expresses contempt for it. This is the fundamental issue dividing the two countries.

Had Trump’s administration entered into negotiations on these grounds, it would’ve had significant leverage. Almost no other country shares China’s vision on these issues, and America’s many allies likely would’ve been willing to act as a united front if the U.S. were pursuing coherent goals.

Unfortunately, Trump seems to have lost the plot in this regard, focusing instead on issues such as the bilateral trade deficit and manufacturing jobs. His administration has also taken to referring to China as a “strategic competitor,” thereby playing right into China’s rhetoric. Faced with this more aggressive approach, China now says it will not negotiate with a “gun to its head” and state media argues that Washington is trying to prevent China’s rise. That charge isn’t true, but Trump’s approach has given it more credibility.

The good news is that both sides seem to be engaging in some introspection. Trump has given ZTE Corp. — which was rocked by U.S. penalties after violating sanctions — at least a temporary reprieve and China’s state media has been reflecting on the wisdom of closed markets. Despite the public bellicosity, both seem to realize they’re on a dangerous path.

Even so, a resolution isn’t obvious. If the dispute was simply over product subsidies or market access, a path forward could be reached. This is a much more fundamental conflict about values.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Christopher Balding at

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US not likely to change position in South China Sea issue

July 5, 2018

Washington’s top diplomat to Manila Sung Kim on Wednesday maintained the US position regarding the freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

In an interview with reporters, Kim underscored that amid the complications in the contested region, the position of United States on the issue has remained the same.

“We believe that all countries should act according to international law and principles,” Kim said.

“We believe freedom of navigation is an important way to protect our international rights and principles. So our position has not changed and I don’t expect it to change,” he added.

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China has been accused of militarizing the region, alarming claimant countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam. Beijing, however, has dismissed the allegations.

The US has expressed its deep concern over China’s actions, noting the importance of refraining from unilateral aggressive actions that are inconsistent with the international law and principles.

Despite the fact that US is not a claimant of the contested region, it has maintained that it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation, trade and peace and stability in the South China Sea, where a bulk of the world’s trade passes through.

Kim said US aircraft carriers had visited the Philippines and carried out patrols in the contested region.

In June, the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its flotilla of escort ships had just passed from the area near Guam and carried out a routine patrol within the South China Sea en route to Manila.

The USS Carl Vinson and the Reagan’s sister ship, USS Theodore Roosevelt, also sailed through the disputed waters in February and April, respectively.

“I think that sends an important signal that we care about developments in this region, we care about developments in the South China Sea. So that will not change either,” he said.

US-PHL relations

Kim, meanwhile, stressed that the ties between the US and the Philippines remains “deep,” adding that the US has continued to provide assistance to the Philippine government, including in the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.

“I think everyone acknowledges the important role that the US played in defeating the terrorists in Marawi. In fact President Duterte himself has acknowledged the special role that the US has played in many different contexts including in Marawi,” Kim said.

Last month, Kim announced that the US would give an additional P296.2 million in financial assistance to the Philippines for supporting humanitarian assistance work in Marawi City.

When it comes to the controversial war against illegal drugs of the Duterte administration, Kim ensured that the US would continue to support the government.

“We understand that the drug issue is a huge challenge for the Philippines and we understand why President Duterte is so focused on dealing with that very big problem, and we will continue to work with the Philippines government,” Kim said.

He, however, emphasized the need to respect human rights when dealing with issues on illegal drugs.

“We continue to have strong law enforcement cooperation with PNP (Philippine National Police) and other relevant agencies in the Philippines. So I think our robust law enforcement cooperation will continue, and it is important that both sides agree on the importance of rule of law and respecting human rights as we proceed with efforts to deal with the drug problem,” Kim said. —Anna Felicia Bajo/KBK, GMA News



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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 


Image may contain: 6 people, outdoor

Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.


Image may contain: 2 people

Will the South China Sea Become a Chinese Lake?

July 4, 2018

Twelve days at sea on a French warship provide occasion to ponder what lies ahead for the disputed waterway.

Published on: July 3, 2018
Jonas Parello-Plesner is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

No automatic alt text available.

Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 


Image may contain: 6 people, outdoor

Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.


Image may contain: 2 people