Vietnam: Proof that ‘arbitral victory’ is a colossal fraud

A Vietnamese military outpost in the Kalayaan area, after upgrading in June 2016. PHOTO VNEXPRESS.NET
A Vietnamese military outpost in the Kalayaan area, after upgrading in June 2016. PHOTO VNEXPRESS.NET

First of 2 parts

THERE is incontrovertible proof that what the Yellows claim as the country’s “victory” in the compulsory arbitration the Aquino regime brought against China in 2013 is fraudulent: Vietnam claims the Spratlys (Truong Sa to them, Kalayaan Island Group to us) as their sovereign territory, as much as does China (Nansha Qundao).

If, for argument’s sake, the arbitral panel ruled illegal China’s sovereignty in the Spratlys and ordered it to vacate the seven reefs it occupies, on which it built artificial islands, the Philippines still won’t be able to get these. It will have to contend with a fiercer claimant: Vietnam, which claims as much as China does and with as much intense nationalist fervor as the Chinese do.

A very rough analogy would be if an Atty. A convinced you to file a suit against Mr. C to declare him as having no legitimate claim to a land you claim to own. You win the suit, pay huge attorney’s fees, but then you later find out that a Mr. V also has claim, a bigger one, on it. And worse, Atty. A was actually working for Mr. V. You were scammed.

If China vacates the Spratlys, Vietnam would be rushing in to occupy the Chinese-claimed territories and even those that we do. In such an eventuality, do you think United States would help us? Unlikely, as it has been wooing Vietnam since it broke off from the Chinese aegis in 1978. Another war against the Vietnamese? Never, US media would shriek.

The United States and the likes of former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and foremost Sinophobe Antonio Carpio can’t run to the West claiming a superpower is bullying the Philippines.

Hands-off

The US and the world had long ago officially declared a hands-off policy over the territorial and maritime disputes in the Spratlys. If hostilities break out between us and Vietnam, the United States and the world will be just watching, appealing for cessation of hostilities – which would likely occur after Vietnam has occupied our nine islands and reefs, they are militarily positioned and prepared to do so quickly. Do you think they’ll return those to us after hostilities end?

There is no doubt Vietnam would be routing us. They have at least 2,000 troops manning the 49 island-based forts and 28 structures on submerged corals patterned after oil rigs in the 29 features they occupy in the Spratlys. These battle-ready troops are armed not just with assault weapons, but with 122-mm howitzers, light tanks and even the Israeli-made extended-range rocket artilleries.

How many troops do we have in the nine islands and reefs we occupy? A pathetic 72 – a figure Aquino’s American lawyers revealed to the world, in breach of our national security secrets.

Is it just coincidental that the wife of Carpio – whose personal writer claims was the arbitration’s brainchild and who has devoted his entire newspaper column to diatribes against China – is Vietnamese, Bach Yen “Ruth” Nguyen Carpio?

If China leaves, Vietnam dominates. IMAGE BY AUTHOR USING GOOGLE EARTH PRO
If China leaves, Vietnam dominates. (Image by author using Google Earth Pro)

Thumbs-up

Mrs. Carpio was listed as part of the Philippine delegation and attended the arbitration’s first hearing on July 7, 2015. Is it coincidental that on that day Mrs. Carpio’s fellow countrymen were also there as observers? Knowing what this arbitration was really all about after studying it for eight years, I can’t help imagining a scene in which Mrs. Carpio, presumably by her husband’s side, waved to her fellow Vietnamese in that hall, gave the thumbs-up gesture and then pointed as he smiled to her spouse.

Carpio and former foreign secretary del Rosario have never discussed the fact that Vietnam claims the entire Spratlys, and occupies more islands and reefs than either China or the Philippines. In their hundreds of media interviews and lectures, they never mentioned Vietnam as having been the most aggressive claimant in the Spratlys. It seized 10 islands and reefs in the area from 1971 to 1978 and another 11 features in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it built 12 structures patterned after oil rigs but modified to be military outposts, in eight submerged banks.

Carpio and del Rosario have not done so as that is a crucial part of the colossal hoax they have foisted on the nation. They have fooled the nation that only China is claiming “what is ours” in the Spratlys and the arbitration suit was to get a legal ruling invalidating China’s claims. If Carpio really believes so, have you ever heard him saying, “After China, we have to file a similar suit against Vietnam?”

Wittingly or unwittingly, Carpio has advanced Vietnam’s claims in the Spratlys through the arbitration, especially as that country both legally in its South China Sea claims and militarily is much, much stronger than us.

The utter deception that the arbitration was a victory is also crystal clear considering just the following two points:

Nothing to enforce

First, not only is there no body to enforce the “award,” it doesn’t really order China to do anything. Even if the United Nations by some miracle were to order the award’s enforcement, it did not order China to do anything. If China leaves, Vietnam dominates.

For example, it makes declarations as “China has no legal basis to claim the areas enclosed by its nine-dash line.” But it doesn’t order China to vacate the Paracels, the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal enclosed by that line. It declares that China has damaged the coral-reef structures when it built artificial islands. But it doesn’t order it pay whoever for that damage, or to repair the damage. The award really was an academic exercise, interesting and even far-reaching in its rulings for the international law scholars, but which has no real impact on the South China Sea (SCS) disputes.

Second, the award did not rule on the sovereignty claims of China or that of Vietnam, but only on whether which country, China or the Philippines, has the legitimate exclusive economic zone (EEZ) encompassing features we claim.

But the core of the disputes in the South China Sea is over sovereignty, not over EEZs. For instance, the panel ruled that only the Philippines’ EEZ emanating from Palawan encompasses Mischief Reef and other features China has occupied in the area. It did not rule, though, that China and Vietnam claims the entire Spratlys as their sovereign territory.

No wonder that even according to an anti-China think-tank, the Asian Maritime Transparency Institute, most of the world’s nations have refused to call for the arbitration “award” to be compiled with by China or have totally ignored it. The exception, of course, are the United States and its handful of close allies.

Legal tactic

Carpio and del Rosario and their US lawyers adopted this legal tactic as they knew full well that there is no international court that can rule on sovereign claims between nations. They thought, though, that this would be enough as they could use the award as fuel to manufacture the humongous lie: that according to international law as interpreted by an international body (even if it is just an arbitral panel), China has no legitimate claim in the SCS.

But for what was such a hoax perpetrated?

First, it advanced Vietnam’s claims in the SCS, so it could shout to the world that it has no choice but to defend these by militarizing it as much as possible, or as much as it could afford – and don’t ever suspect that these will be used as launching pads for the takeover of features occupied by the militarily weak Philippines.

Second, the award would fuel the propaganda line of the US (which shepherded the suit) that China has been an expansionist power in Southeast Asia and is not complying with the international rule of law. This has been the tack the United States has been using to drive a wedge between that emerging superpower and other nations in the region in its attempts to maintain its hegemony in the region in the thinly veiled “Pivot to Asia” policy that President Barack Obama launched in 2011.

Third, it would order China to allow a triad led by the Indonesian- owned First Pacific conglomerate with magnates Enrique Razon and Roberto Ongpin to pursue their ambitious gas extraction project in the Reed (Recto) Bank. China shot down the project when, in March 2011, it drove away the triad’s seismic survey vessel from there and declared it would do so again with similar future attempts. China claims the Reed Bank as its sovereign territory while the Philippines claims it is within its exclusive economic zone.

Pressured

The triad, most probably with Carpio’s advice, naively believed that China could be pressured through the arbitration suit to lift is objection to its gas development project.

Aquino’s former solicitor general, Florin Hilbay, the official agent for the suit, however, recently inadvertently – or even stupidly – disclosed that del Rosario and Carpio’s strategy was to file the suit but send clear message to China to agree to a compromise solution, through a joint development of the Reed Bank gas deposits to be undertaken by the triad and the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp.

That certainly would be a signature move of Carpio who had founded and run what had been the most powerful corporate law firm during the Fidel Ramos administration. As any corporate lawyer would know, corporate suits are filed not with the aim of getting a conviction, but to pressure the accused company to agree to a compromise.

I don’t think it is coincidental that Aquino’s former foreign secretary del Rosario, who managed the hostile foreign policy against China and pushed for the arbitration suit, was for most of the lucrative part of his working life was a director in the biggest First Pacific firms, even of its mother company, the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co.

In his newspaper column, Carpio declared that the arbitration suit is “one of the enduring legacies of President Aquino.” That certainly would be so fitting. Aquino was himself a fraud the Yellows managed, because of its control of media, to portray as a competent and incorruptible president. He wasn’t.

The arbitration was a fraud foisted on the nation by a fraud.

It was far from being a harmless hoax though, which is why I am to be honest quite livid that this deception continues to be believed, even by Duterte’s foreign affairs and defense department heads.

But the Aquino gang and the US terribly miscalculated China’s response to the arbitration. On Wednesday, I will discuss these terrible consequences, which could have even led to an economic disaster for us if a former mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, had not won as president and junked it as soon as he took power.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Terry Senit Flores

    Most of those Filipinos bias against China in the West Philippine Sea should know the complexity of the issue. It is not just China that we are facing heads-on some claimants are quiet but they may break their silence later. Our triumph in the arbitral international ruling at the Hague may not be entirely dependable unless all other countries would put down their claim.

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