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FROM PHILSTAR

BY FEDERICO PASCUAL: COURT TELLS PHL, CHINA: 'PANATAG' BELONGS TO ALL [THE PHILIPPINES did not win it all in The Hague. For one, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled last July 12 that the rich fishery resources of Panatag shoal off Zambales do not belong only to the Philippines but also to China and others who traditionally fish there.]


JULY 17 -By Federico D. Pascual Jr. THE PHILIPPINES did not win it all in The Hague. For one, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled last July 12 that the rich fishery resources of Panatag shoal off Zambales do not belong only to the Philippines but also to China and others who traditionally fish there. If proximity were the only criterion (it is not), Filipinos should have prior rights to Panatag. The shoal is only 120 nautical miles from Zambales – and 530 nm from Hainan island, the nearest China landmass in the South China Sea. In its 15 submissions, the Philippines did not ask the arbitral court to drive out or ban the Chinese, but only to declare illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea their harassing and barring Filipinos from Panatag. We highlight Panatag out of many disputed areas, because of (1) the misimpression that the tribunal had ordered the Chinese out, (2) the continued exclusion of Filipino fishermen, and (3) the inadequate assistance being given them. Also known as Bajo de Masinloc in Spanish times, Huangyan Dao to the Chinese, and Scarborough to much of the world, Panatag had been a fishing ground to generations of Filipinos until 2012 when the previous administration left them at the mercy of the Chinese coast guard. Panatag is well within the country’s 200-nm Exclusive Economic Zone, but the PCA ruled that China and the Philippines must share its fishery resources between them and with others. That award (ruling) remains a dead letter as China, the neighborhood bully, refuses to honor it. Without power to resolve sovereignty disputes, the tribunal was silent in its 479-page award on who owns Panatag. Ownership equates to sovereignty, which involves the exercise of the full power and authority of the state. The tribunal classified Panatag as “high-tide features” (rocks), which generate only a 12-nm territorial sea – not a 200-nm EEZ, or a more extensive continental shelf. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Babe Romualdez - Negotiating from a position of strength
[In October 2014 during United Nations Day celebrations, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged countries to “make joint efforts to promote the rule of law in international relations, abide by international law and universally recognized basic principles governing international relations…” But while engaging our giant neighbor in negotiations is a good option, we should always remember that China could resort to bully tactics to get its way. And this time, the government can boost its position with the PCA ruling. As Yi himself noted, “acting in accordance with international law is the common sense, whereas breaching international law is unpopular.”]


JULY 17 -Babe Romualdez
HONOLULU, Hawaii – US Vice President Joe Biden was in Honolulu yesterday to observe the ongoing RIMPAC naval exercise. Biden met with the foreign ministry officials of Korea and Japan which he called America’s key allies in the Pacific. While the discussion centered on North Korea, there was also a meeting at the Pacific Command regarding the South China Sea. The US vice president commented that nations can work together to steer history in a direction of greater peace and stability. The unanimous decision of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea has reverber­ated all over the world. Despite calls by major heads of state for both parties to abide by the arbitral court’s milestone decision – being the first international ruling over disputed maritime territories in the South China Sea – China continues to be defiant, with President Xi Jinping declaring that they will “never accept any claim or action” based on the PCA decision. Given the fact that the UN tribunal does not have the power to enforce its ruling, everybody is now closely watching the situation. Two days after the PCA handed down its decision, Filipino fishermen tried fishing in Scarborough Shoal but were driven away by Chinese Coast Guard. But as a New York Times editorial pointed out, it would be foolish for Xi Jinping – given China’s stake when it comes to peaceful trade with the rest of the world – to take “provocative actions that could inflame regional tensions and conceivably lead to a military confrontation with its neighbors or the United States.” Saying war is not an option and that he does not want to taunt or flaunt the UN tribunal’s decision, President Rodrigo Duterte has indicated his willing­ness to engage in bilateral talks with China, broaching the idea of former President Fidel Ramos as head of the negotiations. I think FVR is a good choice being more senior than Senator Sonny Trillanes who was sent to China by the previous administration to conduct several attempts at back channeling which unfortu­nately did not go anywhere especially after we filed the arbitration case. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Bobit Avila - We won our case, but China problem remains
[Other pundits suggest that we should return to the negotiating table with China and take advantage of the ruling of the Court, and settle once and for all the issue of conflicting claims within the Spratly Islands. Wait-a-minute! Who is using the word “return”? Since when did we sit down and negotiate with China? Maybe Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV did this but behind our backs. But then on the other hand, we do have a better position now than we did before the Hague ruling.]


JULY 14 -By Bobit S. Avila
Filipinos all over the world are patting themselves at the back with the news, which was released the other day that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that China cannot invoke the nine-dash-line claim as a valid legal basis for its maritime expansion in the West Philippine Sea. Now I wouldn’t call it the luck of Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, after all, we have always believed that what we used to call the South China Sea, which we now call the Philippine Sea, has always been Philippine territory. If I remember right, I was still in law school when I was the official delegate of the University of San Carlos (USC) College of Law at the 8th World Law Conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and one of the main topics that were on the table was the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). While this ruling comprises 90 percent of our claims in the West Philippine Sea, however this ruling does not settle the entirety of the dispute as it involves claims to islands, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). While we are elated by this favorable ruling for the Philippines, unfortunately it cannot be legally enforced and thus we can only take it as a moral and legal victory…. but a victory nonetheless! Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately rejected the ruling by the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration saying, “China will never accept any claim or action based on those awards.” China boycotted the court proceedings knowing perhaps that it really had no historic or any legal basis to make their own claims. So what do we do if China continues to build their artificial island into a major military base? What do we do when Chinese Navy or Coast Guard ships block Filipino fishermen from fishing in our own backyard? Again we have to face our harsh reality that the Philippine military, especially our Navy is no match against the Chinese Navy and that small skirmishes or incidents with the Chinese Navy and our poor Filipino fishermen would never provoke the US Navy into action to take sides with the Philippines despite our Mutual Defense Treaty as that can only come if there is an all-out war. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Carmen Pedrosa - ‘A pyrrhic victory’
[The Philippines may have won its case on the Spratlys before he UN tribunal but it was a pyrrhic victory. Pyrrhic victory is defined in dictionaries as one “that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.”]


JULY 16 -Carmen N. Pedrosa
The Philippines may have won its case on the Spratlys before he UN tribunal but it was a pyrrhic victory. Pyrrhic victory is defined in dictionaries as one “that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.” I cannot include all the factors and points taken up by the court in its decision. But the decision takes for granted that the tribunal had the power to decide on sovereignty of pieces of land. The decision has not settled the conflict. At worst it has only made it more difficult by a third party deciding on a conflict that could have been better settled between the parties involved. The real victor is not the Philippines but the US pushing for the UN tribunal to decide against China, a growing world power and rival. The Philippines was used for its pivot to Asia and to retain its supremacy in the region than it was for “the rule of law” it claimed. The US used the Philippines to take China to the Tribunal for its own interest. It varied from “freedom of navigation” to “determining fishing rights.” But the real issue was the struggle for hegemony between the US and China in our region. It may be useful to note that the issue of fishing rights was settled between China and Vietnam by creating an administration to regulate a common activity. As the fishermen themselves will tell you they had been fishing there for generations and until the conflict were friends. “We even ate together” said the fishermen before the conflict. “ What is the use of winning a pyrrhic victory? Happily, Rodrigo Duterte’ was president by the time the decision came. The incompetent former president, Benigno Aquino III, was a useful tool for the cause of US hegemony. Even before the tribunal’s decision the Chinese ambassador and the Philippine president met and discussed how the Philippines will handle the Spratly (West Philippine Sea issue). That was mature diplomacy. President Duterte said if the tribunal’s ruling is favorable to the Philippines, let’s talk with China. “We are not prepared to go to war.”  Moreover, the ruling also does not settle the entire dispute as it involves other claims to islands, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). Philippine Ambassador Alberto A. Encomienda sent me what he calls a monograph on “The South China Sea Issues and Related Core Interests of the Philippines.”  Encomienda is probably the most knowledgeable Filipino diplomat on the subject but has been shunned by the Department of Foreign Affairs as being pro-China. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Phl, China told: Panatag’s for all


By Federico D. Pascual Jr.

MANILA, JULY 18, 2016 (PHILSTAR) POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. July 17, 2016 - THE PHILIPPINES did not win it all in The Hague. For one, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled last July 12 that the rich fishery resources of Panatag shoal off Zambales do not belong only to the Philippines but also to China and others who traditionally fish there.

If proximity were the only criterion (it is not), Filipinos should have prior rights to Panatag. The shoal is only 120 nautical miles from Zambales – and 530 nm from Hainan island, the nearest China landmass in the South China Sea.

In its 15 submissions, the Philippines did not ask the arbitral court to drive out or ban the Chinese, but only to declare illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea their harassing and barring Filipinos from Panatag.

We highlight Panatag out of many disputed areas, because of (1) the misimpression that the tribunal had ordered the Chinese out, (2) the continued exclusion of Filipino fishermen, and (3) the inadequate assistance being given them.

Also known as Bajo de Masinloc in Spanish times, Huangyan Dao to the Chinese, and Scarborough to much of the world, Panatag had been a fishing ground to generations of Filipinos until 2012 when the previous administration left them at the mercy of the Chinese coast guard.

Panatag is well within the country’s 200-nm Exclusive Economic Zone, but the PCA ruled that China and the Philippines must share its fishery resources between them and with others. That award (ruling) remains a dead letter as China, the neighborhood bully, refuses to honor it.

Without power to resolve sovereignty disputes, the tribunal was silent in its 479-page award on who owns Panatag. Ownership equates to sovereignty, which involves the exercise of the full power and authority of the state.

The tribunal classified Panatag as “high-tide features” (rocks), which generate only a 12-nm territorial sea – not a 200-nm EEZ, or a more extensive continental shelf.

READ MORE...

The panel sent to The Hague by the previous administration that has been congratulating itself for its “victory” may want to take time to explain – especially to the displaced fishermen – why an area 120 nm from Zambales is deemed outside the country’s 200-nm EEZ.

Under the Law of the Sea convention, rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no EEZ or continental shelf. However, they do count for territorial claims, i.e. claims of up to 12 nm of territorial waters.

• PCA explains why nobody owns Panatag UNDER the UNCLOS, a country can only claim sovereignty over its land and up to 12 nautical miles of sea perpendicular to its coastline (base line). Panatag lies beyond the 12-nm limit from the Luzon coast.

On Page 232 of its award, the tribunal said “Scarborough shoal includes five to seven rocks that are exposed at high tide and is accordingly a high-tide feature. That those protrusions are composed of coral is immaterial to their classification.

“On any account, the protrusions above high tide at Scarborough shoal are minuscule. This is confirmed by photographs in the record. They obviously could not sustain human habitation in their naturally formed state; they have no fresh water, vegetation, or living space and are remote from any feature possessing such features.

“Scarborough shoal has traditionally been used as a fishing ground by fishermen from different states, but the tribunal recalls that economic activity in the surrounding waters must have some tangible link to the high-tide feature itself before it could begin to constitute the economic life of the feature.

“There is no evidence that the fishermen working on the reef make use of, or have any connection to, the high-tide rocks at Scarborough shoal. Nor is there any evidence of economic activity beyond fishing.”

The South China Morning Post reported last April that China plans to build an outpost on Panatag and may add an airstrip. Missiles fired from there could hit Manila as well as Clark Field and Subic Bay, among the bases the United States has been allowed to use for military operations.

That possibility has driven the US and its allies into a frenzy of defensive calculations. President Rodrigo Duterte, the man caught in the vortex of the power play, has not disclosed his plans aside from talking directly to Beijing and avoiding warlike moves that the country cannot afford anyway.

Aside from the military and diplomatic concerns, President Duterte must address the Panatag simmering situation, including looking after displaced Filipino fishermen.

• SC suspends 2 lawyers for P2-M TRO THE SUPREME Court, meanwhile, has slapped attorney Luis Lokin a three-year suspension and his sidekick lawyer Sikini Labastilla one year for “imputing judicial corruption.”

Court records show that Lokin was found guilty of scheming the issuance in 2005 of a Philcomsat Holding Corp. check for P2 million on a PHC account at the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

The check was issued to “CASH” with a notation “Cash for Sbayan TRO” and, per record of the case, encashed by Lokin’s driver at the BPI branch in a PHC-owned office space at the Pacific Star building in Makati.

The check bore the same date as a Sandiganbayan TRO that was served on the legitimate PHC owners who at that time were kept out of the 80-percent Philcomsat subsidiary while agents of the Presidential Commission on Good Government were inside bleeding PHC of P800 million over time.

The irony was that the PCGG looters were allegedly buying TROs on the legitimate PHC owners using the company’s own money. The legitimacy of the private owners versus the PCGG agents has been affirmed in a separate SC decision.


Negotiating from a position of strength BABE’S EYE VIEW By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 17, 2016 - 12:00am 0 4 googleplus0 0


Babe Romualdez

HONOLULU, Hawaii – US Vice President Joe Biden was in Honolulu yesterday to observe the ongoing RIMPAC naval exer­cise. Biden met with the foreign ministry officials of Korea and Japan which he called America’s key allies in the Pacific. While the discussion centered on North Korea, there was also a meeting at the Pacific Command regarding the South China Sea. The US vice president commented that nations can work together to steer history in a direction of greater peace and stability.

The unanimous decision of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea has reverber­ated all over the world. Despite calls by major heads of state for both parties to abide by the arbitral court’s milestone decision – being the first international ruling over disputed maritime territories in the South China Sea – China continues to be defiant, with President Xi Jinping declaring that they will “never accept any claim or action” based on the PCA decision.

Given the fact that the UN tribunal does not have the power to enforce its ruling, everybody is now closely watching the situation. Two days after the PCA handed down its decision, Filipino fishermen tried fishing in Scarborough Shoal but were driven away by Chinese Coast Guard. But as a New York Times editorial pointed out, it would be foolish for Xi Jinping – given China’s stake when it comes to peaceful trade with the rest of the world – to take “provocative actions that could inflame regional tensions and conceivably lead to a military confrontation with its neighbors or the United States.”

Saying war is not an option and that he does not want to taunt or flaunt the UN tribunal’s decision, President Rodrigo Duterte has indicated his willing­ness to engage in bilateral talks with China, broaching the idea of former President Fidel Ramos as head of the negotiations. I think FVR is a good choice being more senior than Senator Sonny Trillanes who was sent to China by the previous administration to conduct several attempts at back channeling which unfortu­nately did not go anywhere especially after we filed the arbitration case.

READ MORE...

It can be remembered that every time Filipino diplomats attempted to engage in discussions with their Chinese counterparts, the latter would always begin by saying “this is ours” – which already stymied the dia­logue even before it got started. This time however, the ruling gives us additional leverage that would allow us to negotiate from a position of strength. Beijing’s claim that it owns almost 90 percent of the South China Sea has been found to be without legal or historical basis.

At the same time, the PCA decision has given us a stronger voice before international gatherings, as seen during the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) where the Philippines was able to raise the issue of the South China Sea dispute and the recent ruling. This was a far cry from the last ASEM where China pressured other countries to avoid the issue.

Our American friends are encouraged by the re­sponse of world leaders to the ruling, among them Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who warned Beijing that to ignore the ruling would be a “serious international transgression,” and that China’s reputa­tion would suffer if it refuses to abide by the decision. As Bishop pointed out, the PCA decision provided “deep clarity on the international law as applicable to the South China Sea.”

It is quite interesting that while China continues to act in a belligerent manner – calling the decision as nothing but “a piece of waste paper” – it also declares openness to negotiations. This can only indicate that China is not as unconcerned or unaffected as it wants to project to the rest of the world. After all, nations must abide by the international rule of law not only to maintain peace and security but to safeguard economic progress and development. Respecting the rule of law is “the foundation for building equitable state relations and the basis upon which just and fair societies were built,” world leaders said, when they adopted the declaration reaffirming the rule of law during the UN General Assembly in September 2012.

“If our aim is to strengthen trust between nations, then respect for accepted norms and standards cannot be ambiguous or selective,” remarked General Assembly president Vuk Jeremic of Serbia during the 2012 GA. By signing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982 and ratifying the same in 1996, China effectively committed itself to abide by the provisions of UNCLOS – which states that one state can initiate arbitration against another state, and that tribunals such as the PCA in The Hague have jurisdiction over disputes.

China’s expansionist moves in the South China Sea – building artificial structures, even sending “tourists” to the disputed territories – is being dubbed as the marine equivalent of the Nazi Lebensraum ideology that was used to justify the invasion of another country. China’s actions run counter to its publicly avowed commitment to maintain world peace and international rule of law.

In October 2014 during United Nations Day celebrations, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged countries to “make joint efforts to promote the rule of law in international relations, abide by international law and universally recognized basic principles governing international relations…”

But while engaging our giant neighbor in negotiations is a good option, we should always remember that China could resort to bully tactics to get its way. And this time, the government can boost its position with the PCA ruling. As Yi himself noted, “acting in accordance with international law is the common sense, whereas breaching international law is unpopular.”


We won our case, but China problem remains SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 14, 2016 - 12:00am 0 4 googleplus0 0


By Bobit S. Avila

Filipinos all over the world are patting themselves at the back with the news, which was released the other day that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that China cannot invoke the nine-dash-line claim as a valid legal basis for its maritime expansion in the West Philippine Sea. Now I wouldn’t call it the luck of Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, after all, we have always believed that what we used to call the South China Sea, which we now call the Philippine Sea, has always been Philippine territory.

If I remember right, I was still in law school when I was the official delegate of the University of San Carlos (USC) College of Law at the 8th World Law Conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and one of the main topics that were on the table was the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). While this ruling comprises 90 percent of our claims in the West Philippine Sea, however this ruling does not settle the entirety of the dispute as it involves claims to islands, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

While we are elated by this favorable ruling for the Philippines, unfortunately it cannot be legally enforced and thus we can only take it as a moral and legal victory…. but a victory nonetheless! Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately rejected the ruling by the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration saying, “China will never accept any claim or action based on those awards.” China boycotted the court proceedings knowing perhaps that it really had no historic or any legal basis to make their own claims.

So what do we do if China continues to build their artificial island into a major military base? What do we do when Chinese Navy or Coast Guard ships block Filipino fishermen from fishing in our own backyard? Again we have to face our harsh reality that the Philippine military, especially our Navy is no match against the Chinese Navy and that small skirmishes or incidents with the Chinese Navy and our poor Filipino fishermen would never provoke the US Navy into action to take sides with the Philippines despite our Mutual Defense Treaty as that can only come if there is an all-out war.

READ MORE...

Other pundits suggest that we should return to the negotiating table with China and take advantage of the ruling of the Court, and settle once and for all the issue of conflicting claims within the Spratly Islands. Wait-a-minute! Who is using the word “return”? Since when did we sit down and negotiate with China? Maybe Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV did this but behind our backs. But then on the other hand, we do have a better position now than we did before the Hague ruling.

On the plus side, we now have a new President, under Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, and I agree to the suggestions of people that he can go to China for his first foreign travel. So the big question is… has China even invited Pres. Duterte for a state visit? This remains to be seen.

* * *

While the nation is now winning in the international front, we are still faced with the same slow Internet problems that has put the Philippines in a disadvantage vis-à-vis our ASEAN neighbors when it comes to faster Internet speeds and pricing.

Last May 30, the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Company (PLDT), Smart Communications and Globe Telecom signed separate agreements to purchase the San Miguel Corporation’s telco assets, which include SMC’s share of the important 700MHz broadcast band. Both telcos claim that they have notified the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on May 30, a day before the approval of the final IRR, which was on May 31.

Unfortunately, the PCC has pointed out that the P69.1 billion buyout of SMC’s telco assets was not deemed approved. The PCC is mandated to review and evaluate mergers and acquisitions (M&As) worth P1 billion and above for anti-trust practices and abuse of market dominance.

What has happened here is that both PLDT and Globe Telecom “assumed” that this deal was approved… especially when Pres. Rodrigo Duterte assumed the Office of the President last July 1 and gave the telcos marching orders to improve Internet speeds or he would allow another telco to compete with them.

In fairness to Globe Telecom and PLDT, they are both feverish in their plans to improve Internet speeds. My good friend, Mike Toledo texted me last week that PLDT is spending P1 billion to expand the coverage of its Wi-Fi Service program which is part of the P43 billion capital expenditure for the year 2016.

Meanwhile Globe Telecom’s Ernest Cu pointed out that the 700 MHz frequency owned by San Miguel would result in faster internet connections and this would be complimented by the construction of more cell sites which they are already doing this year. So the question is, is the PCC as a government agency blocking the efforts of the telcos to improve their Internet speeds? This deal with SMC is not a kind of merger; it is a separate deal!


‘A pyrrhic victory’ FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 16, 2016 - 12:00am 1 129 googleplus1 2


Carmen N. Pedrosa

The Philippines may have won its case on the Spratlys before he UN tribunal but it was a pyrrhic victory. Pyrrhic victory is defined in dictionaries as one “that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.”

I cannot include all the factors and points taken up by the court in its decision. But the decision takes for granted that the tribunal had the power to decide on sovereignty of pieces of land. The decision has not settled the conflict. At worst it has only made it more difficult by a third party deciding on a conflict that could have been better settled between the parties involved.

The real victor is not the Philippines but the US pushing for the UN tribunal to decide against China, a growing world power and rival. The Philippines was used for its pivot to Asia and to retain its supremacy in the region than it was for “the rule of law” it claimed. The US used the Philippines to take China to the Tribunal for its own interest. It varied from “freedom of navigation” to “determining fishing rights.” But the real issue was the struggle for hegemony between the US and China in our region.

It may be useful to note that the issue of fishing rights was settled between China and Vietnam by creating an administration to regulate a common activity. As the fishermen themselves will tell you they had been fishing there for generations and until the conflict were friends. “We even ate together” said the fishermen before the conflict. “ What is the use of winning a pyrrhic victory?

Happily, Rodrigo Duterte’ was president by the time the decision came. The incompetent former president, Benigno Aquino III, was a useful tool for the cause of US hegemony. Even before the tribunal’s decision the Chinese ambassador and the Philippine president met and discussed how the Philippines will handle the Spratly (West Philippine Sea issue). That was mature diplomacy. President Duterte said if the tribunal’s ruling is favorable to the Philippines, let’s talk with China. “We are not prepared to go to war.”

Moreover, the ruling also does not settle the entire dispute as it involves other claims to islands, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Philippine Ambassador Alberto A. Encomienda sent me what he calls a monograph on “The South China Sea Issues and Related Core Interests of the Philippines.”

Encomienda is probably the most knowledgeable Filipino diplomat on the subject but has been shunned by the Department of Foreign Affairs as being pro-China.

READ MORE...

In a dinner I hosted for Amal Clooney when she came to Manila, I seated Ambassador Encomienda on one side next to her, and, on the other, Mr. Kang who was the political attaché of the Vietnamese embassy. Our conversation was how to bring together the Vietnamese and Philippine positions closer on the issues of the conflict.

Amal told us her work as a lawyer included other areas of international law. Among the cases she had handled was Cambodia vs Thailand, requesting for interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear. She also represented Cambodia in inter-state territorial claim before the International Court of Justice.

We had an interesting conversation. At the time I thought it would be interesting if we could get her firm Doughty Chambers to advise us on the South China Sea conflict.

This was her answer: “It is a bit complicated because while Ambassador Encomienda’s group is an NGO, the South China Sea is a problem of the government that is handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Solicitor-General. However, we might be able to start the work now… and we should be ready.”

Unfortunately, the Philippines has a shortsighted policy regarding its relations with China. It failed to see the bigger picture. The Vietnamese, who also have territorial disputes with China, showed themselves to be more practical.

Their disputes did not prevent Vietnam’s Communist Party Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong and China’s President Xi Jinping from signing a dozen cooperation agreements covering party-to-party relations, investment, infrastructure, culture and a bank loan worth $200 million from China Development Bank to the Bank of Investment and Development of Vietnam.

The Xinhua News Agency commented the settlement of their territorial disputes depend on “the two neighbors’ will and ability to properly manage their differences” and not allow the outside world to interfere.

This “trade-and-commerce” approach by Vietnam towards China is what I had been advocating in my past columns on how best to deal with the Philippine-China dispute. Our territorial dispute can be put in the backburner by concentrating on trade, commerce, and investment opportunities that benefit both countries.

It is good there are cooler heads that have said we should return to the negotiating table with China, and take advantage of the ruling of the Court for our mutual benefit. We should have worked on trade and development and settle the ownership issue later like the other claimants did. From the start bilateral negotiations was the more commendable action put forward by the late Deng Xiaoping.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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