PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

MISERY OF BEING FILIPINO: FILIPINOS, WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?
[by John Nery --The continuing MRT fiasco and the unresolved scandal of the Mindanao blackouts are defining failures of the Aquino administration, but the cause of the “misery of the Filipino” I wrote about—“the unhappiness of a citizen seeing her country being left behind”—is not merely political, goes beyond the lifespan of single administrations.]


JULY 14 ---THE HUNDREDS of comments in response to last week’s column, on “The misery of the Filipino,” were largely empathetic; many shared the same deep sense of possibility and the same sense of sharp frustration. The response inspires me to take the next step and ask the unavoidable question: What are we doing wrong?  A Malaysian academic swears some of the best medical doctors in Singapore are Filipino. (I think some of the best bankers, too.) A Thai media executive investing in digital believes, or rather simply assumes, that his regional website should be developed by “creative” Filipinos. A famous New York City-based newspaper designer describes a Filipino colleague as “the best art director in the world.” I know a Filipino manager who is the consultant of choice of one large American enterprise doing business in different parts of Africa. Many of us can offer our own examples of Filipinos doing excellent work abroad. The pattern of excellence can assume large-scale form, on the level of entire countries or industries. Indonesian companies have Filipino corporate executives working at the highest levels. Some of the world’s best universities have Filipino students at the top of their class or doing pioneering research work. Filipino architects have helped shape the skyline in Brunei; Filipino engineers have helped tame the deserts of the Middle East; Filipino mariners have helped define the modern maritime industry. READ MORE...

ALSO: CBCP seeks divine help to protect PH in sea row


JULY 14---The Manila Cathedral. Filipino bishops called on the nation Monday, July 13, 2015, to storm the heavens with prayers for the protection of the Philippines and a peaceful resolution of the country’s territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. INQUIRER file photos 
Filipino bishops called on the nation Monday to storm the heavens with prayers for the protection of the Philippines and a peaceful resolution of the country’s territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) ordered an Oratio Imperata as lawyers for the Philippines answered questions from judges on a United Nations arbitral court in The Hague on a suit brought by the Philippines to resolve the dispute according to international law. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, said the only thing ordinary Filipinos could do collectively amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea was to pray and seek God’s intervention.  “We will have an Oratio Imperata, which is an obligatory prayer for all Catholics in all the dioceses to be prayed so that the tension may ease, and justice, equality and prosperity may be served,” Villegas said during a press briefing at the end of the three-day plenary assembly of the CBCP yesterday. READ MORE...

ALSO Flashback: Bishops against asking help from US in shoal dispute


APRIL 13 ---Philippine President Aquino insisted the wargames were not directed at China, with which the country has territorial disputes, but pointed out Manila's reliance on ally the United States. Photo: SCMP Pictures An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Friday warned the government against asking help from the United States and other countries in settling the latest dispute with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, also chair of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, said things will become more complicated if the Philippine government allowed the US or any other country to meddle in the conflict. “The problem will become more complicated if countries that don’t even have a claim on the shoal will intervene,” said Iñiguez over Church-run Radio Veritas Friday. The prelate also believed that diplomacy was still the best option to resolve the conflict. “We should review our claim to the island and if it is proven that it is ours, then we have the right to stand up for our claim,” said Iñiguez. “I also believe that diplomacy is still the effective way to address the problem … that’s the nature of international policy-to use diplomacy to avoid trouble,” the bishop said. READ MORE...

ALSO Commentary: The moment of truth-- Philippines vs. China at The Hague


JULY 9 --THE HAGUE The week covering July 7 to 13 will be pivotal to the Philippines’ legal battle to assert its claims over the portion of the South China Sea, that it calls the West Philippine Sea.
[ABOUT THE WRITER -Editor's note: Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University, and a regular contributor to major international publications and think tanks on Asian geopolitical and economic affairs. He is the author of “Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China, and the Struggle for the Western Pacific." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.] Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines’ quest for peacefully resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea has entered a critical stage. After more than two years of hard work and extensive preparations, culminating in the thousand-page-long memorial, Manila has the chance to convince the arbitral tribunal at The Hague that its case deserves to be heard. The ultimate aim is to ensure all claimant countries honor their treaty commitments under prevailing international legal regimes, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has been ratified by the Philippines (1984) and China (2006) alike. The key hurdle, however, is the question of jurisdiction: That is to say, whether the Arbitral Tribunal, formed under the aegis of the UNCLOS, has the mandate to rule on the Philippines’ case against China. We won’t be able to even defend the merit of our case, unless we convince the court that compulsory arbitration is the way forward. What is at stake is not only the merits of the Philippines’ arguments, and the questionable character of China’s sweeping claims, but also the very credibility and viability of international law as the primary arbiter for resolving seemingly intractable territorial spats. This is precisely why the whole international community is anxiously following the ongoing proceedings at The Hague. READ MORE...

ALSO ANALYSIS: THE PHILIPPINES’ CASE AGAINST CHINA AT THE HAGUE


JULY 15 ---Analysis submitted by NESTOR MATA --Photo of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague. The legal route is not the only tool that these claimants have, but it is the only one where they get a fair hearing relative to China and the outcome is not rigged in the latter’s favor. Beijing’s relative military superiority, foot-dragging on a binding code ofconduct, and expansive claims, already severely restrict their options, and this would be another blow in that respect.
As for outside actors like the United States and Japan, they may rely even more on building “coalitions of the willing” to emphasize the primacy of rule of law in the South China Sea in the absence of a clear verdict in favor of it in court. International discourse on the legality of South China Sea claims will also continue to lack the clarity and decisiveness of such a verdict. That’s not a very comforting thought, but The Hague tribunal still has to conduct a second round of its arbitral trial, if it decides to assume jurisdiction over the Philippine case against China. Will it uphold the 1982 UNCLOS, which came into force in 1994 and signed by more than 160 UN members, including China? Can it be used to stop China from violating the maritime rights of other nations in the South China Sea? Is it the “great equalizer” that smaller nations can invoke to halt powerful nations from trampling their territories? “If China can defy the limits placed by the UN convention on its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea and disregard the entitlements of the Philippines under the convention, “ as Secretary del Rosario asked the tribunal, “then what value is there in the convention for small states as regards their bigger, more powerful and better armed neighbors?” These are the crucial questions facing the five-member arbitration tribunal at The Hague. *** Quote of the Day: “International arbitration may be defined as the substitution of many burning questions for a smoldering one.” – Ambrose Bierce READ COLUMN FROM THE BEGINNING...

ALSO FULL TEXT: China's statement on conclusion of arbitration hearing on sea row


JULY 15 ---Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying delivered her remarks on the conclusion of the hearing on issues relating to jurisdiction and admissibility by the South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal established at the request of the Philippines. FMPRC
  China has reiterated that it will not participate in the arbitration case filed by the Philippines in relation to the disputed areas over the South China Sea. FULL STORY: China claims being a 'victim' of South China Sea dispute The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, the Netherlands concluded the hearing on the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility over the South China Sea last Monday. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released statement below on Tuesday upon the conclusion of the hearing. READ FULL TEXT....

ALSO: China claims being a 'victim' of South China Sea dispute


JULY 15 --A masked protester holds a placard as he joins a rally to coincide with the oral arguments scheduled Tuesday before the Arbitral Tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands on the complaint filed by the Philippines against China's claims of the disputed islands in the South China Sea Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines. The disputed islands known as the Spratlys Group of islands is claimed by China, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. AP/Bullit Marquez
 Beijing on Tuesday claimed that it has been "exercising utmost restraint" in the South China Sea maritime dispute despite being a "victim" of the said issue.
During her regular press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying noted that China has been considering regional peace and stability in dealing with the maritime dispute. "China has always adhered to and has been committed to resolving, in accordance with international law and on the basis of respecting historical facts, relevant disputes relating to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests with relevant states directly concerned through negotiation and consultation," Hua told members of the press. READ MORE...

ALSO: China urges Philippines to ditch its South China Sea case


JULY 14 --BEIJING (AP) — China urged the Philippines on Tuesday to ditch its attempt to solve South China Sea territorial disputes with an international tribunal and instead negotiate with Beijing directly, following the arbitration panel's latest request for input from China.
China contends the tribunal doesn't have jurisdiction, and has refused to participate. The tribunal, which operates under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, held a weeklong hearing ending Monday to address China's contention. It said that Beijing has until Aug. 17 to comment on the hearing, and that it should make a ruling on the issue this year. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday reiterated China's opposition to the arbitration, and said China "will never accept the unilateral attempts to turn to a third party to solve the disputes." "China urges the Philippines to come back to the right track of resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation," she said in a statement. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Filipinos, what are we doing wrong?

MANILA, JULY 30, 2015 (INQUIRER) By: John Nery @jnery_newsstand
Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:35 AM July 14th, 2015 - THE HUNDREDS of comments in response to last week’s column, on “The misery of the Filipino,” were largely empathetic; many shared the same deep sense of possibility and the same sense of sharp frustration.

The response inspires me to take the next step and ask the unavoidable question: What are we doing wrong?

A Malaysian academic swears some of the best medical doctors in Singapore are Filipino. (I think some of the best bankers, too.) A Thai media executive investing in digital believes, or rather simply assumes, that his regional website should be developed by “creative” Filipinos.

A famous New York City-based newspaper designer describes a Filipino colleague as “the best art director in the world.” I know a Filipino manager who is the consultant of choice of one large American enterprise doing business in different parts of Africa. Many of us can offer our own examples of Filipinos doing excellent work abroad.

The pattern of excellence can assume large-scale form, on the level of entire countries or industries. Indonesian companies have Filipino corporate executives working at the highest levels.

Some of the world’s best universities have Filipino students at the top of their class or doing pioneering research work. Filipino architects have helped shape the skyline in Brunei; Filipino engineers have helped tame the deserts of the Middle East; Filipino mariners have helped define the modern maritime industry.

READ MORE...

And yet, back home, this pattern of excellence is difficult to find.

The continuing MRT fiasco and the unresolved scandal of the Mindanao blackouts are defining failures of the Aquino administration, but the cause of the “misery of the Filipino” I wrote about—“the unhappiness of a citizen seeing her country being left behind”—is not merely political, goes beyond the lifespan of single administrations.

The endemic corruption, the absence of “gleaming infrastructure” to match those of neighboring countries, even the lack of discipline at traffic intersections or indeed on any road where jeepneys and tricycles can load or unload passengers anywhere, at any time: These and similar conditions of life in these islands go way back, some right past Rizal’s generation.

Again, please don’t get me wrong. The “resurgence in patriotic pride since the late 1980s” I wrote about is real, palpable. There is much to celebrate, victories large (the mostly peaceful ouster of an entrenched dictatorship) and small (we have learned to fall in line at bus stations and jeepney stops, something that simply could not be imagined 30 years ago).

And yet: Our country is being left behind. It’s not only in the amenities of modernity, but even in the fundamentals: According to the Asian Development Bank, between 2005 and 2010 both Cambodia and Vietnam overtook the Philippines in poverty reduction.

What are we doing wrong?

We can all agree that our political system is essentially flawed: It is designed to favor the moneyed, the popular, the established. There will be time to discuss this, and other structural causes such as unchecked population growth.

But today I am more interested in Filipino habits, in ways of doing, that, like inclement weather, prevent progress from taking off.

Herewith, four deadly habits:

We think that the rules are not fixed, and that anyway they do not apply to us. Filipinos abroad are (mostly) punctilious about the rules: crossing the street only on pedestrian lanes, slowing down on yellow, following directions. But in the Philippines, almost anything goes. (I am reminded of some of my own bad habits in driving when I drive abroad; it takes me a few hours or so to adjust to the norm.) This lack of respect for the rigor of rules may be related to our famous improvisational spirit, but multiply the instances by millions of times, and we have a culture of entitlement.

We see what is wrong but believe nothing much can be done anyway. In other words, learned helplessness. We seethe in anger as thousands of fellow tourists trek up a mountain to stand in front of a famous waterfall, without regard for safety or indeed the area’s carrying capacity. But we join the horde anyway because, as someone would inevitably say, “that’s the way it’s done.”

We are inconsistently, selectively, proud, to the point of racism. We thrill to the foreign exploits of personalities with the slightest connection to the Philippines, we avidly share video of a Filipino-American guest, any Filipino-American guest, on famous shows—but blithely, casually, question the Filipino-ness of an outstanding graduate of the country’s premier university merely on the basis of her name and her looks.

We lack national ambition. Too many of us cannot see beyond our family. We have a responsibility to care for kith and kin, of course, to heed the biblical injunction and provide for our parents in their old age and our children in their youth. I never tire of repeating John Adams’ words, which find an echo in Emilio Jacinto’s “Kartilya.”

“There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real liberty.”

Family first gets in the way of that positive passion.


INQUIRER

CBCP seeks divine help to protect PH in sea row SHARES: 110 VIEW COMMENTS By: Jocelyn R. Uy @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 04:55 AM July 14th, 2015


The Manila Cathedral. Filipino bishops called on the nation Monday, July 13, 2015, to storm the heavens with prayers for the protection of the Philippines and a peaceful resolution of the country’s territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. INQUIRER file photos

Filipino bishops called on the nation Monday to storm the heavens with prayers for the protection of the Philippines and a peaceful resolution of the country’s territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) ordered an Oratio Imperata as lawyers for the Philippines answered questions from judges on a United Nations arbitral court in The Hague on a suit brought by the Philippines to resolve the dispute according to international law.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, said the only thing ordinary Filipinos could do collectively amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea was to pray and seek God’s intervention.

“We will have an Oratio Imperata, which is an obligatory prayer for all Catholics in all the dioceses to be prayed so that the tension may ease, and justice, equality and prosperity may be served,” Villegas said during a press briefing at the end of the three-day plenary assembly of the CBCP yesterday.

READ MORE...

Oratio Imperata is an ordered prayer for a special intention besides the ones prescribed by ritual that the Pope or the bishop of a diocese may require to be said during Mass.

Representatives to heaven

There are different kinds of Oratio Imperata, said either for civil disturbances or deliverance from calamities or illnesses.

“We (bishops) don’t have the means to negotiate with the superpowers, we cannot represent the Philippines in the international court, but we can certainly represent the Philippines before God and ask [Him], the sure source of peace, to take care of the Philippines,” Villegas said.

He said the CBCP had the right to be concerned about the territorial dispute because if it escalated, it would become “a problem of peace … and peace is the mission of the Church.”

In an interview later with reporters, Villegas said the Catholic faithful could neither go to The Hague nor patrol the West Philippine Sea, but they could kneel and pray for God’s help.

“We know that the tension there will not be solved through people alone but through God’s grace,” Villegas said.

The Oratio Imperata will be recited during Masses in all the dioceses across the country, Villegas said.

He said the bishops would decide when to start and end the holding of the special prayer.

The Oratio Imperata will call for peace on the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea and for the resolution of the dispute through justice and respect for the Filipino people’s rights.



“We pray that no harm will be done to our marine creatures and habitat. We pray that our fellow Filipinos protecting our islands and seas be kept safe from natural and man-made disasters,” the prayer goes.

The prayer will also be dedicated to government officials “that they resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue,” Villegas said.

OK with DFA

Informed about the Oratio Imperata, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the people’s prayers would help the country in its fight against China’s intrusions into the West Philippine Sea.

“We cannot deny that prayers are powerful,” said DFA spokesman Charles Jose.
He said the government was doing everything to resolve the dispute peacefully and prayers would be a big help.

Lawyers for the Philippines faced the arbitral tribunal on Monday for a second round of oral arguments, answering clarificatory questions from the judges on the Philippine stand that the court had jurisdiction over the case.

The court first has to decide whether it has jurisdiction over the case, then, if it decides for jurisdiction, call for oral arguments on the merits of the Philippine suit.

Law of the sea

In the first round of arguments last week, the Philippine legal team told the court that it had jurisdiction because the case involved China’s violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

The Philippines is challenging China’s claim to islands and reefs in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recognized under the Unclos.

China insists it owns those islands and reefs because it has “undisputed sovereignty” over 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea.

Beijing has refused to participate in the arbitration, and has gone ahead with building artificial islands at the Philippine-claimed reefs. It is believed to hand the UN court a fait accompli in the event of a ruling for the Philippines.

Other claimants

Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China and are following closely the progress of the Philippine case.

Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan have small delegations observing the oral arguments at the arbitral court.

Jose said Paul Reichler, one of the Philippines’ foreign lawyers, expected a ruling on jurisdiction to come down in 90 days.

“If they decide they have jurisdiction, then they will continue on to the merits of the case. So we [expect to be called] again to The Hague for oral arguments, this time on the merits of the case,” Jose said.

In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government was confident the arbitral court would rule in favor of the Philippines.

Neutral names
Jose said the DFA supported calls from netizens for Google to replace with neutral names the Chinese names of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

“That would be good,” Jose said.

He added, however, that the DFA still had to decide whether it would actually ask Google to rename the disputed islands.–
With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Jerry E. Esplanada


INQUIRER FLASHBACK APRIL 13, 2012

Bishops against asking help from US in shoal dispute SHARES: 41 VIEW COMMENTS By: Jocelyn R. Uy @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 07:57 PM April 13th, 2012


Philippine President Aquino insisted the wargames were not directed at China, with which the country has territorial disputes, but pointed out Manila's reliance on ally the United States. Photo: SCMP Pictures

MANILA, Philippines—An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Friday warned the government against asking help from the United States and other countries in settling the latest dispute with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, also chair of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, said things will become more complicated if the Philippine government allowed the US or any other country to meddle in the conflict.

“The problem will become more complicated if countries that don’t even have a claim on the shoal will intervene,” said Iñiguez over Church-run Radio Veritas Friday.

The prelate also believed that diplomacy was still the best option to resolve the conflict.

“We should review our claim to the island and if it is proven that it is ours, then we have the right to stand up for our claim,” said Iñiguez.

“I also believe that diplomacy is still the effective way to address the problem … that’s the nature of international policy-to use diplomacy to avoid trouble,” the bishop said.

READ MORE...

The CBCP official issued the comment after it was reported that Senator Gregorio Honasan was urging the US to make an official statement on the matter.

“So what is the use of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement for? We have a problem in Scarborough, how will you help us? Will you help us? Otherwise, what is the treaty for?” Honasan was quoted as saying the other day.

The senator also said that the Philippines’ other allies—such as Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)—must also be informed of the situation in the shoal, noting that the issue was not merely regional but global in nature.

The Philippine Navy withdrew on Thursday morning its largest warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, as part of the country’s effort to defuse tension brewing on the shoal, which started on Sunday after a Philippine Navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels in a lagoon of the resource-rich shoal.


CNN PHILIPPINES

COMMENTARY --The moment of truth: Philippines vs. China at The Hague By Richard Javad Heydarian, special for CNN Philippines Updated 15:09 PM PHT Thu, July 9, 2015


THE HAGUE The week covering July 7 to 13 will be pivotal to the Philippines’ legal battle to assert its claims over the portion of the South China Sea, that it calls the West Philippine Sea.

[Editor's note: Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University, and a regular contributor to major international publications and think tanks on Asian geopolitical and economic affairs. He is the author of “Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China, and the Struggle for the Western Pacific." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.]

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines’ quest for peacefully resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea has entered a critical stage. After more than two years of hard work and extensive preparations, culminating in the thousand-page-long memorial, Manila has the chance to convince the arbitral tribunal at The Hague that its case deserves to be heard.

The ultimate aim is to ensure all claimant countries honor their treaty commitments under prevailing international legal regimes, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has been ratified by the Philippines (1984) and China (2006) alike.


ARBITRAL TRIBUNAL JURISDICTION HEARINGS: PHL VS CHINA --SOURCE: PHL COURT OF ARBITRATION (UN, IMO

The key hurdle, however, is the question of jurisdiction: That is to say, whether the Arbitral Tribunal, formed under the aegis of the UNCLOS, has the mandate to rule on the Philippines’ case against China. We won’t be able to even defend the merit of our case, unless we convince the court that compulsory arbitration is the way forward.

What is at stake is not only the merits of the Philippines’ arguments, and the questionable character of China’s sweeping claims, but also the very credibility and viability of international law as the primary arbiter for resolving seemingly intractable territorial spats. This is precisely why the whole international community is anxiously following the ongoing proceedings at The Hague.

READ MORE...

A historic case

The Philippines has been praised by nations around the world, because it is the first country to have dared (under Art. 287 and Annex VII of UNCLOS) to take China to the court. Throughout my visits to and interactions with colleagues and officials from sympathetic countries across the Pacific region — and, I must say, there are many of them — I have constantly been told about how they genuinely admire our government’s decision to resort to compulsory arbitration despite China’s vehement opposition.

Though China has refused to engage the legal proceedings, claiming “inherent and indisputable” sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, the UNCLOS (under Art. 9, Annex VII) has not barred the resumption of our arbitration efforts, which kicked off in early 2013.

Without a doubt, the Aquino administration has made a very bold decision by taking on China directly — albeit not through force, but instead the language of law.

Beijing knows it would be very difficult to justify its notorious nine-dashed-line doctrine, so it has instead chosen to sabotage the Philippines’ arbitration efforts by raising (see its Dec. 7, 2014 position paper, which can be read as an informal counter-memorial) technicality-procedural questions. China has deployed three related arguments that aim to put into question whether the arbitral tribunal should exercise jurisdiction at all.

China cites that the UNCLOS doesn’t have the mandate to address sovereignty-related (title to claim) questions, while, invoking Art. 298 back in 2006, China has opted out of compulsory arbitration on issues that concern its territorial claims, among others.

China also claims that it is premature to resort to compulsory arbitration, since alternative mechanisms haven’t been fully exhausted. The Philippines’ savvy legal team, however, has tried to address the jurisdiction issue by eschewing the sovereignty question, instead focusing on two major issues.

The fog of law

First, the Philippines has emphasized the importance of clarifying (under Art. 121 of UNCLOS) the nature of disputed features: Whether they are low-tide or high-tide elevations or islands, since this has a huge implication on whether the features can be appropriated at all or can generate their own 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Perhaps the most important argument of the Philippines’ is that the arbitral tribunal should examine (and hopefully invalidate) China’s nine-dashed-line claims, which are based on pre-modern, questionable, and vague notion of “historical rights/waters”.

In short, we want to make sure all claimant countries harmonize their claims and maritime behavior along modern, internationally-accepted legal principles, not obscure doctrines.


CONTROVERSIAL MAP. Map featuring China's 9-Dash line claim over the South China Sea. The 9-Dash or U-Shaped line is used by China and Taiwan to claim a vast area of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) including the Paracel Islands -- occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam -- and the Spratly Islands, also disputed by Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam apart from Taiwan. Image courtesy of www.southchinasea.org 

In preparation for my book, “Asia’s New Battlefield”, I had the chance to consult with leading legal experts from across the United States, Asia, and Europe in the past year. My key impression is that the legal community is quite divided on whether the Philippines can overcome the jurisdictional hurdle, since it will have to argue that its case transcends any sovereignty-related question.

But practically everyone agrees that China has to first clarify sweeping territorial claims, which are neither consistent nor precise. Up to this day, it is not clear whether China is claiming the entire South China Sea or only the features and fisheries and hydrocarbon resources in the area. And if China doesn’t even clarify the precise coordinates of its claims, it would be almost impossible to have any viable joint development scheme among claimant countries.

The Philippines’ case has also presented a huge dilemma for arbitration bodies under UNCLOS. If the Arbitral Tribunal turns down jurisdiction, and refuses to even hear the merits of our arguments, then the very viability of international law as a conflict-management/resolution mechanism will come under question.

At the same time, if it decides to push ahead and eventually rule against China, then there is a huge risk that, as a good friend Columbia University Professor Matthew C. Waxman puts it, it would be "ignored, derided and marginalized by the biggest player [China] in the region."

After all, there are no multilateral compliance-enforcement mechanisms to force China — a permanent member of the UN Security Council — to abide by any unfavorable verdict.

In practical terms, the big concern is that while the legal cycle slowly grinds, China is actually changing the facts on the ground on a daily basis. This is why it is extremely important that the Philippines remains vigilant, and primarily focuses on tangibly guarding its interests on the frontline by fortifying its position on features it already controls, negotiate necessary measures (i.e., hotlines) to prevent unwanted clashes and escalation in the high seas, and employ all instruments in its toolkit to protect its territorial integrity.

An urgent concern, in particular, is to prevent China from imposing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the Spratly chain of islands, which may give Beijing the ability to choke off the supply-lines of other claimant states and dominate arguably the world’s most important maritime highways.

The truth is that, we can’t only rely on UNCLOS to address this critical situation, and we will need the help of our allies and partners across the world as well as the full support of the Filipino nation.


MALAYA

ANALYSIS: THE PHILIPPINES’ CASE AGAINST CHINA AT THE HAGUE Submitted by NESTOR MATA on July 14, 2015


Photo of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague.

THE United Nations arbitration tribunal at The Hague began its hearing last week on the case submitted by the Philippines against China regarding its South China Sea claims.

During the first round of the arbitral trial, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario asked the tribunal to declare China’s claims to virtually all the South China Sea as invalid, saying that Beijing’s actions have trampled not only the rights of the Philippines but of other Asian nations’ rights, too.

“China’s positions and behavior have become progressively more aggressive and disconcerting,” he told the five-member arbitration body that operates under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “Outside observers have referred to this as China’s ‘salami-slicing’ strategy. That is, taking little steps over time, none of which individually is enough to provoke crisis, but when these steps are taken together, they reflect China’s efforts to slowly consolidate de facto control throughout the South China Sea.”

Actually, the tribunal opened hearings to address China’s contention that it does not have authority to assume jurisdiction over the Philippine complaints. The tribunal could proceed to look into the complaints against Beijing only if it rules that it has jurisdiction over the Philippine case.

The Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have been contesting China ownership of the resource-rich South China Sea. Other countries, like the United States and Japan, have also expressed concern over China’s increasingly assertive actions, including massive island-building that they say have damaged vast coral reefs in the disputed waters and feared that China would eventually limit freedom of navigation and overflight to back its claims.

Other countries territorially at odds with China --- Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand --- sent observers in The Hague hearings on the complaint of the Philippines.

Geopolitical observers and analysts watching The Hague trial have suggested that it is important to keep the broader significance of the Philippine case in mind.

In terms of principle, Prashanth Parameswan of The Diplomat magazine on current Asian-Pacific affairs, wrote in his analytical article that the case is important because it is a bold attempt to begin to untangle the knotty South China Sea disputes through the rule of law rather than the might makes right approach that China has been using over the past few years.

Since 2009, he recalled, China has increased its assertiveness in the South China Sea, including by seizing Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012, forcibly moving an oil rig into Vietnamese waters in 2014, building artificial islands, and encroaching even into the southernmost extent of its nine-dash line reaching into Malaysia and Indonesia.

China’s destabilizing pattern has continued despite repeated protests that it violates the UNCLOS, other agreements like the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties Beijing inked with Southeast Asian states, and general principles like the peaceful settlement of disputes .

What is the recourse for smaller Asian states when a larger actor is breaking the rules and infringing on their rights? And is there a way to impose some kind of diplomatic cost on the offending state?

This is where the case of the Philippines against China comes in. While various states have been crying foul and appealing to international law, there is no substitute for a neutral court making a decision on legal questions based on a common set of rules.



This is what Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario meant when he told the tribunal that its decision has global significance because it has an “impact on the application of the rule of law in maritime disputes.”

How does principle translate into practice? In the case, the Philippines is asking the court to rule on the validity of China’s nine-dash line as a maritime claim; the status of individual features that China occupies; and Beijing’s interference in Philippine activities in the South China Sea.

If, in the best case scenario, the court largely rules in Manila’s favor on these questions, it may push China to significantly redefine its illegal nine-dash line.

Since other South China Sea claimants have also registered their opposition to or sought clarification about China’s claims in this respect, the decision would benefit them as well in trying to settle their disputes with Beijing further down the line.

It also has broader importance for other actors like the United States and Japan, since China’s claims and the way it secures them has increased tensions over freedom of navigation and over-flight.

However, as significant as this case is, it is also important to point out that the extent to which it matters both in principle and its practice will depend on several factors.

The first is the way the court rules. Procedurally, the tribunal will begin by first determining if it has jurisdiction and whether the Philippines’ claims are admissible before deciding on the merits of the case itself.

Assuming it gets down to the merits of the case, even those sympathetic to the Philippine position know that its case is far from a clear-cut one.

Indeed, the tribunal may very well decide in Manila’s favor on some, but not all of its claims, for instance, agree that the nine-dash line is not a valid maritime claim, but not agree on the legal status of certain features. In this instance, in practice Beijing would be able to just modify the nine-dash line but still maintain its claim to most of the waters there through claims generated from these features.

While that would make China’s claims less extensive and clearer, it would be a much more limited victory than Manila and its supporters would like. More generally, in principle, a ruling that is only partly in favor of the Philippines would also muddy the waters and be less in line with the moral clarity that some prefer on the case.

That bleeds into the second factor which affects the significance of the case – which is China’s own response to the decision. China has already declined to participate in the case while continuing its assertiveness in the South China Sea. Given its past behavior, Beijing is expected to ignore a ruling that is against its favor on the basis that the tribunal – in its view – lacks jurisdiction.

In this case, its assertiveness in the South China Sea would continue. Alternatively, even if – either due to intense diplomatic pressure, its own volition, or a mix of both – Beijing ignores the court’s decision and modifies the nine-dash line further down the line, it may choose to do so to a very limited extent that is insufficient to mollify the concerns of other claimants.

If these factors end up reducing the significance of the case drastically, the consequences could be dire not just for the Philippines, but other countries as well. For the Philippines, there may be general cynicism about the legal route, especially since Manila has had to suspend some of its military and economic activities in the South China Sea while pursuing this case while Beijing has been free to do as it pleases while refusing to participate.

For other claimants, it could send a clear and concerning signal that for all the rhetoric, rule of law is rather ineffective in reality when it comes to curtailing Beijing’s assertiveness, and that they must increasingly look to further developing their own capabilities to preserve their claims.

The legal route is not the only tool that these claimants have, but it is the only one where they get a fair hearing relative to China and the outcome is not rigged in the latter’s favor. Beijing’s relative military superiority, foot-dragging on a binding code of conduct, and expansive claims, already severely restrict their options, and this would be another blow in that respect.

As for outside actors like the United States and Japan, they may rely even more on building “coalitions of the willing” to emphasize the primacy of rule of law in the South China Sea in the absence of a clear verdict in favor of it in court. International discourse on the legality of South China Sea claims will also continue to lack the clarity and decisiveness of such a verdict.

That’s not a very comforting thought, but The Hague tribunal still has to conduct a second round of its arbitral trial, if it decides to assume jurisdiction over the Philippine case against China.

Will it uphold the 1982 UNCLOS, which came into force in 1994 and signed by more than 160 UN members, including China? Can it be used to stop China from violating the maritime rights of other nations in the South China Sea? Is it the “great equalizer” that smaller nations can invoke to halt powerful nations from trampling their territories?

“If China can defy the limits placed by the UN convention on its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea and disregard the entitlements of the Philippines under the convention, “ as Secretary del Rosario asked the tribunal, “then what value is there in the convention for small states as regards their bigger, more powerful and better armed neighbors?”

These are the crucial questions facing the five-member arbitration tribunal at The Hague.

***

Quote of the Day: “International arbitration may be defined as the substitution of many burning questions for a smoldering one.” – Ambrose Bierce


PHILSTAR

FULL TEXT: China's statement on conclusion of arbitration hearing on sea row (philstar.com) | Updated July 15, 2015 - 11:44am 36 1160 googleplus0 1


Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying delivered her remarks on the conclusion of the hearing on issues relating to jurisdiction and admissibility by the South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal established at the request of the Philippines. FMPRC

MANILA, Philippines - China has reiterated that it will not participate in the arbitration case filed by the Philippines in relation to the disputed areas over the South China Sea.

FULL STORY: China claims being a 'victim' of South China Sea dispute

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, the Netherlands concluded the hearing on the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility over the South China Sea last Monday.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released statement below on Tuesday upon the conclusion of the hearing.

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The Chinese Government has, on many occasions, expounded its position of neither accepting nor participating in the arbitral proceeding unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in disregard of China's legitimate rights bestowed upon her by international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and in breach of the agreement that has been repeatedly reaffirmed with China as well as the Philippines' undertakings in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). This position is supported by sufficient legal evidences. And for more information, please refer to the Position Paper of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines released last December. The origin and crux of the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea lie in the territorial sovereignty disputes caused by the Philippines' illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands since the 1970s, and the disputes concerning maritime rights and interests that arose thereafter. Being a victim of the South China Sea issue, China, bearing in mind the whole situation of regional peace and stability, however, has been exercising utmost restraint. China has always adhered to and has been committed to resolving, in accordance with international law and on the basis of respecting historical facts, relevant disputes relating to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests with relevant states directly concerned through negotiation and consultation. This is China's consistent practice, and also common practice of the international community.

China opposes any move by the Philippines to initiate and push forward the arbitral proceeding. On issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China will never accept any imposed solution or unilaterally resorting to a third-party settlement. China urges the Philippines to return to the right approach of resolving relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible.

RELATED: China's position paper on sea disputes with Philippines


PHILSTAR

China claims being a 'victim' of South China Sea dispute By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated July 15, 2015 - 11:20am 3 120 googleplus0 0


A masked protester holds a placard as he joins a rally to coincide with the oral arguments scheduled Tuesday before the Arbitral Tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands on the complaint filed by the Philippines against China's claims of the disputed islands in the South China Sea Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines. The disputed islands known as the Spratlys Group of islands is claimed by China, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines - Beijing on Tuesday claimed that it has been "exercising utmost restraint" in the South China Sea maritime dispute despite being a "victim" of the said issue.

During her regular press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying noted that China has been considering regional peace and stability in dealing with the maritime dispute.

"China has always adhered to and has been committed to resolving, in accordance with international law and on the basis of respecting historical facts, relevant disputes relating to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests with relevant states directly concerned through negotiation and consultation," Hua told members of the press.

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China reiterated its position of neither accepting nor participating in the arbitral case filed by the Philippines before the United Nations.

"This position is supported by sufficient legal evidences (sic). And for more information, please refer to the Position Paper of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines released last December," Hua added.

Hua also called on the Philippines to drop its arbitration case against China in relation to the disputed areas in the South China Sea.

She stressed that China is willing to resolve the disputes through negotiation and consultation, without the involvement of a third-party settlement.

The Philippines earlier rejected China's renewed offer to bilateral talks, citing that any negotiation on the issue would be deemed acceptable only if other members of the Association of Southeast Nations are involved.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has concluded its hearing on the jurisdiction and admissibility of the Philippines's case against China last Monday.

The court is set to decide on the jurisdiction over the maritime dispute within the year.


YAHOO ASIA

China urges Philippines to ditch its South China Sea case Associated Press July 14, 2015 2:32 AM 

BEIJING (AP) — China urged the Philippines on Tuesday to ditch its attempt to solve South China Sea territorial disputes with an international tribunal and instead negotiate with Beijing directly, following the arbitration panel's latest request for input from China.

China contends the tribunal doesn't have jurisdiction, and has refused to participate. The tribunal, which operates under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, held a weeklong hearing ending Monday to address China's contention. It said that Beijing has until Aug. 17 to comment on the hearing, and that it should make a ruling on the issue this year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday reiterated China's opposition to the arbitration, and said China "will never accept the unilateral attempts to turn to a third party to solve the disputes."

"China urges the Philippines to come back to the right track of resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation," she said in a statement.

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The Philippines praised the tribunal's effort to prod China again to join the case, saying the five-man arbitration body has been fair and transparent in its handling of Manila's complaints against Beijing.

"We have asked China to participate and we continue to extend the invitation for them to explain their side," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said by phone in Manila.

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have been contesting ownership of the resource-rich South China Sea. The United States and other countries have expressed concerns over China's island-building in the region that they say has been provocative and has damaged vast coral reefs in the disputed waters.

Beijing says fears that it would eventually limit freedom of navigation and overflight to back its claims are unfounded. ___

Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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