IT’s bordering on hilarious that Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and his predecessor, the late Albert del Rosario’s propaganda outfit Stratbase ADR, have been shrieking for the “implementation” of the 2016 arbitration ruling on the Philippine suit against China, with three ignorant and noisy senators even demanding for our government to ask the United Nations to ask for Chinese compliance with it.
Why do I claim so?
Yes, the award declared illegal under Unclos China’s nine-dash line that encompasses much of the South China Sea. But that is not the basis for Chinese claims over the Spratlys. Other than declarations made hundreds of years ago, China declared what it calls “Nansha” as part of its territory in the post-war period through the Declaration of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea of 1958 and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of 1992. All its official maps portray the Spratlys as part of its territory, as does Vietnam.
But we’re really the losers in what Manalo and the ADR-Stratbase — and of course, the US government — have claimed as a “landmark ruling” in international law. It is the same Unclos provisions that the arbitration ruling invoked to declare China’s nine-dash line illegal that the panel invoked to declare our Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) without basis in international law.
If one really reads the 500-page “ruling” and the Philippines’ explanations and annexes of over 3,000 pages over the suit, the country will be losing the KIG, a hexagon-shaped area — Luzon would fit into it — which President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. in 1978, through his Presidential Decree 1596, created and annexed out of most of the Spratlys, ignoring the claims over it of China, Vietnam and Taiwan. We claim the islands and other features in the Spratlys are ours solely on the basis of Marcos’ PD, unlike China, which actually does not declare what it calls its Nansha archipelago as theirs on the basis of the chimera that is the nine-dash line.
The total area of Philippine territory is roughly 1.2 million square kilometers, consisting of 300,000 km2 of land, 680,000 km2 of territorial and inland waters, and the 230,000 km2 encompassed by the KIG. If we lose the KIG, as the arbitration panel ruled, we lose 19 percent of our territory. Do we want that?
Did those hailing the arbitration award as a “landmark ruling” in international law really read it?
Paragraph 574 of the arbitral ruling pointed out that “the Philippines could not declare archipelagic baselines surrounding the Spratly Islands.” It explained: “Article 47 of the Convention [on the Law of the Seas, or Unclos] limits the use of archipelagic baselines to circumstances where ‘within such baselines are included the main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1 to 1 and 9 to 1.” And paragraph 599: “The ratio of water to land in the Spratly Islands would greatly exceed 9:1 under any conceivable system of baselines. Indeed, 98 percent of the Spratlys is made up of water.”
According to the arbitration ruling, a nation can only claim sovereignty over individual islands and reefs, not the entire area that contains those islands and reefs. Yet the US and Japan have several island groups in the world, especially in the Pacific, that include the waters linking these islands as part of their sovereign territory.
It was really treasonous for the Aquino 3rd regime — through its American lawyers — to ask the arbitral panel to rule the KIG without legal basis under Unclos. By extension, those pretending to be nationalists by shrieking to the world and China that the arbitral ruling be implemented are in effect traitors, whether they know it or not, as they are demanding we lose 19 percent of Philippine territory.
Aquino’s lawyers even lied to the arbitration panel, saying that the Marcos decree creating the KIG had been repealed. In the panel’s hearing on July 7, 2015, one of its members interpellated one Aquino lawyer, Philippe Sands, on whether he was aware of what “Presidential Decree (PD) 1596 of the Philippines” means in terms of the dispute.
Sands replied: “Under Philippine law, as a treaty lawfully entered into by the Philippines, Unclos is part of internal law, and it has the same status as national legislation. And that means, to the extent that PD 1956 might be inconsistent with Unclos, PD 1956 is to be treated as having been effectively repealed by the Philippines’ subsequent ratification of Unclos, under the principle of ‘ex posteriori derogat priori,’ which means that a ‘new statute takes away the effect of a prior one.'”
Aquino’s lawyers argued that the KIG is illegal, which the arbitration panel agreed to. Yet still applaud the panel’s ruling as “legal and binding”? But the Philippines is the only country that filed the case and committed to complying with its ruling.
The arbitration suit was really a scheme by the US to demonize China by claiming that its claims in the South China Sea are without basis and to force it to move totally out of that sea so that there would only be one hegemon — the US — in Southeast Asia. The US also wanted the KIG declared illegal and the islands and reefs there occupied by China and Vietnam as not entitled to exclusive economic zones, so that it could claim that the waters there are international waters and therefore its warships, even those nuclear-armed, wouldn’t need these nations’ permission to pass through.
The arbitration suit was intended to provide some legal justification — even a flimsy one as a ruling by “arbitration” of one party — for the warships’ patrols in South China under its euphemistically termed freedom of navigation operations (fonops), so it could continue to project its power and contain the emerging superpower in the region, China.
However, the arbitration suit is binding only on the Philippines since China refused to participate in it, while Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia — the other claimants — were obviously not parties to the “arbitration.”
The ruling changes nothing, as China, Vietnam and Taiwan have not given up their position that the Spratlys are their sovereign territory and not just their EEZ. No court, much less a mere three-man arbitration panel, can order them to give up their sovereign claims. Rather stupidly, since the Aquino regime, our government’s announced claim over the Spratlys has been downgraded to our rights to them on the basis that these are within our EEZ emanating from the mainland.
The late Benigno Aquino 3rd and his foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, who pursued the arbitration suit against China, were simply the Americans’ stooges in US President Obama’s grand plan (euphemistically called the “Pivot to Asia”) to stop China’s rise as a competing superpower in Asia, whether they knew it or not.
In 2013, right after the arbitration suit was filed, del Rosario set up (apparently bankrolled by his former boss, First Pacific CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan) the ADR-Stratbase (ADR standing for his initials), taking over an obscure research outfit called Stratbase.
ADR-Stratbase functioned as del Rosario’s personal (and obviously the Americans’) propaganda outfit for the arbitration suit, churning out continually anti-China material. Its managing head has been one Dindo Manhit, a mediocre academic whose highest post in government had been as President Joseph Estrada’s education undersecretary for “special concerns.”
Manhit has been telling friends that I am a purveyor of fake news and the China narrative.
I challenge Manhit to point out exactly what “fake news” I have written, and I commit to publishing his claims in this column space. If he can do this, I’ll quit journalism. If he can’t, he should resign from that dubious purveyor of American propaganda, thinly disguised as a “think tank,” and shut his mouth on the South China Sea disputes. He can start with the main topic of this column, which is that the arbitration ruling he has been ecstatic about ruled our KIG illegal.
I’m not optimistic that he will. All he has been able to write about the SCS disputes are short, shallow opinion pieces in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which are mostly rehashes of anti-China pieces in US newspapers, bereft of the slightest attempt at scholarship. I don’t think he has even read the ruling of the arbitration panel.
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