Tag Archives: UNCLOS

Julio S. Amador: Foreign policy likely to dominate Philippine presidential race

Foreign policy, while not usually an electoral issue in the Philippines, now looms large in the country’s politics. All five aspiring candidates for the May 9 presidential election have stressed their determination to improve the country’s international relations. There are some immediate challenges: A forthcoming ruling on the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea is likely to affect the foreign policy positions of all the presidential candidates. But regardless of the ruling, it is clear that all candidates will seek better ties with China. This does not mean that any of the candidates would forgo the country’s revitalized alliance with the U.S. Nor would any neglect the Philippines’ growing strategic partnerships with Japan and Vietnam or its comprehensive partnership with Australia. Only one candidate, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, has stated a need for renegotiating defense ties with the U.S. Moreover, any new administration will seek closer ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, knowing that the group will play a crucial role in the Philippines’ strategic and economic future. The new president will enter office halfway through preparations for the country’s role of chairing ASEAN in 2017. http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20160317-THE-LAST-MILE/Politics-Economy/Julio-S.-Amador-Foreign-policy-likely-to-dominate-Philippine-presidential-race

South China Sea Dispute Looms Over Philippine Elections

Candidates struggle to balance tough stance on sovereignty with desire to mend ties with China MANILA—China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea is putting Philippine presidential candidates in a tricky situation, as they struggle to balance tough talk on national sovereignty with a desire to improve ties and boost trade with their country’s powerful neighbor. http://www.wsj.com/articles/south-china-sea-dispute-looms-over-philippine-elections-1457843644

Who wins

Sunday’s first presidential debate held in Cagayan de Oro City trended online in the country and the world, and for good reason. It was that rare event—the last televised debate was 24 years ago—when all candidates gathered on stage, abiding by the same rules and limiting their supposedly elaborate platforms to just a few minutes of statements and rebuttals. Each of the five candidates was able to articulate what his or her presidency would look like, with some doing a more colorful or substantive job than the others. They also took different tacks —some using humor, statistics, criticism, appeal to emotion, to answer the questions and engage their adversaries. http://thestandard.com.ph/opinion/editorial/200008/who-wins.html

China: Rejection of the Philippines’ arbitration ‘in line with law’

Foreign Minister Wang Yi says China’s rejection of arbitration filed by the Philippines over terroritorial claims, is in line with the law. His remarks came after talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Beijing on Wednesday, as Australia called for a resolution to the South China Sea disputes through peaceful means, including arbitration. “China is actually following international law by not accepting arbitration regarding sovereign and maritime entitlements. Because after joining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2006, China issued a declaration according to the rights given to China by Article 298 of the UNCLOS. We issued a government statement excluding China from being subjected to the compulsory settlement measures. The Chinese government will continue to stand by the declaration.” said Wang Yi. The minister listed reasons why the Philippines’ arbitration attempt, first made in 2014 to a UN tribunal, is invalid and unacceptable. He said it was a unilateral move by the Philippines, which goes against international norms on arbitration, and that they have not yet exhausted other means to reach a resolution. Wang Yi also said any deployment of defense facilities on China’s own territory would be legitimate. http://english.cntv.cn/2016/02/18/VIDEN2AdpN9EmAhWPGP2fbB6160218.shtml

If the next president withdraws our case against China, call him a TRAITOR

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio advised the country’s next president to push through with the territorial dispute case before the United Nations-backed Arbitration Tribunal because withdrawing it would be catastrophic and a big blow against our Sovereignty and Constitution. In a open forum on the dispute on the West Philippine Sea Thursday night, Carpio was asked about the willingness of 2016 presidential aspirants Jejomar Binay and Grace Poe to reopen negotiations with China. Carpio said there is nothing wrong with “amicable settlements” while there is an ongoing case, but to withdraw it would be “catastrophic and extremely unpatriotic”. “I think the case would be decided before the next president assumes office. In the event it would not be decided, and there’s a new president, the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) itself encourages parties to come to an amicable settlement even while the case is going on,” Carpio said in the forum attended by veteran journalists, historians, and seasoned lawyers. “If a new president comes in and the case is still going on, there is nothing wrong with talking to China. What is wrong is if the case is withdrawn. It should not be withdrawn… If the president will withdraw the case because we’re willing to talk with China, that would be catastrophic,” he added. Carpio also strongly disagree on a possible settlement to just split the West Philippine Sea into two between the Philippines and China. He said to do so would be unconstitutional and would result in the president’s impeachment. Read more: http://themaharlikan.info/defense/if-the-next-president-withdraws-our-case-against-china-call-him-a-traitor/

The Geopolitical Stakes of the 2016 Philippine Elections

For almost four years now, the Philippines has been Southeast Asia’s fastest growing major economy. Once dubbed the “sick man” of Asia, the country’s image has enjoyed a turnaround under President Benigno Aquino III. The Philippines sovereign credit rating has been upgraded from junk to investment grade by all major credit rating agencies. Though still lagging its peers in ASEAN, foreign direct investment and tourism figures have all seen remarkable upticks. Investments in human and economic infrastructure through public-private partnerships, overseas development assistance, and other schemes have been unprecedented under the current administration, despite bureaucratic and other delays. Most significantly, though, Aquino’s foreign policy has made headlines around the world. Specifically, Manila has drawn closer to Washington. In April 2014, the two treaty-allies signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which will soon see American troops with their air and naval assets rotate through Philippine military bases, including Subic Bay and Palawan, both facing the contested South China Sea. The Philippines also filed a case against China through a UN-backed court to invalidate the infamous nine-dashed line map in the South China Sea, while simultaneously internationalizing the disputes, connecting them to wider international concerns such as freedom of navigation and access to global commons. The legal move is the boldest yet among ASEAN-claimant countries. Both the EDCA, an external balancing act, and the arbitration case, an appeal to the rule of law and for favorable global public opinion, represent Manila’s resolve in defending its sovereign claims and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the Philippines has embarked on a modest military modernization program that, if realized, will give its armed forces submarines and other assets required for the military’s envisioned “minimum credible defense” capabilities by 2020. Overall, Manila’s South China Sea policy under Aquino has been to internationalize, to legalize, and to balance China. However, come May 2016, the country’s economic, security, and foreign policies will all enter a state of flux, as the Philippines gears up to hold its fifth presidential election since returning to democracy in 1986. The ruling Liberal Party has yet to decide on its presidential ticket for next year’s election, but Aquino has already indicated that Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, the current secretary of Interior and Local Government and a losing vice-presidential candidate in 2010, is his top choice for a successor. In an interview with the local media, the president said of Roxas, “He has demonstrated quite a wide range of expertise in so many different assignments. He is a valuable member of the Cabinet. He has been a staunch leader of the party… And he has demonstrated the ability to sacrifice, previously, for instance, when he gave way to me. So all of these traits should point out that he is – to my mind, as far as our coalition is concerned – at the top of the list.” http://thediplomat.com/2015/05/the-geopolitical-stakes-of-the-2016-philippine-elections/

Roxas on global threats: West PH Sea, resources, climate change, ISIS

MANILA, Philippines – In a country where voters are “worldier” and where millions are part of the global diaspora, where does the ruling political party’s standard-bearer stand when it comes to global issues? Manuel Roxas II enumerated the “biggest threats” to the Philippines as it faces territorial issues with its neighbors, stronger and more frequent typhoons, and the rise of fundamentalism. (The Leader I Want: Mar Roxas’ to-fix list for 2016) US VS CHINA. Roxas said the “increasing competition” between the world’s two biggest economies – the United States and China – is a “given.” “It will be fought in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” added Roxas. China claims most of the sea, including areas the Philippines claims at its own. President Benigno Aquino II, who endorses Roxas’ candidacy, will likely be most remembered for his strong stance against China. Roxas, a member of Aquino’s Cabinet since 2011 up until mid-2015, shares the same stand as Aquino. http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/111513-mar-roxas-west-ph-sea-climate-change-isis

Duterte open to joint exploration with China in Spratlys

MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte is willing to enter into a joint exploration for oil and gas in the Spratly Islands with China, provided that Beijing does not insist on its territorial claim over it. Speaking before businessmen and entrepreneurs in the Go Negosyo Talks “Meet the Presidentiables Series” in Makati City, Duterte said talks over the disputed territory is going nowhere as the United States is insisting on a roundtable or multilateral discussion between claimants China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. Duterte said the US position is being opposed by China who insists on bilateral talks with the other claimant nations. According to Duterte, the situation in the area has become dangerous as China has not stopped building structures in the disputed islands with the talks going nowhere. “There are conflicting claims between the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand and even Malaysia. This has created a very dangerous situation when China decided to build structures there. Ang problema nito is we want to talk about it and the United States is asking that it must be multilateral to include those with conflicting claims including faraway Australia and Japan. The United States is insisting na kung may paguusapan, it should be a round table for all of us. China does not want that. China wants to talk bilateral. This has created a hiatus. The talks are not moving and they are in still waters and China is adding structures day-to-day. Something has to be done,” he said. Duterte said that the Spratly islands is within the territorial boundaries of the Philippines. According to Duterte, if elected president, he would convince China to engage in talks again with the predicate that the disputed islands belong to the Philippines. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/02/05/1550028/duterte-open-joint-exploration-china-spratlys

Philippines vs. China: Arbitral Claims under UNCLOS

Launching the Arbitral Case The arbitration, filed in accordance with the dispute settlement provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (“UNCLOS”) (Art. 287 and Annex VII (“Arbitration”), commenced on 22 January, 2013, when the Philippines served China with a “Notification and Statement of Claim” “over the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.” On 19 February, 2013, China, in a diplomatic note setting out “the Position of China on the South China Sea issues,” rejected the Notification. Both countries ratified UNCLOS. Part 1. Philippines’ good-faith attempts at negotiations with China As Paul S. Reichler, Lead Counsel for the Philippines, explains at an UNCLOS discussion: “Negotiations go back to 1995 … China simply held on to the position that China had sovereignty and sovereign rights within the 9-dash line.” The situation was aggravated in April 2012 by Chinese ships surrounding Scarborough Shoal.” “And in the spring of this year, China moved in on Second Thomas Shoal.” (P.S. Reichler, Foley Hoag LLP) Part 2. What lies at stake? PHILIPPINES: If China’s claim [assertion of its 9-dash line] were allowed to stand, the Philippines stands to lose substantial rights to her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). China would deprive fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan of their livelihood. China’s land reclamation and islandbuilding activities would damage the marine ecosystem. The safety of maritime vessels would be at risk. The potential to exploit a major hydo-carbon resource in Reed Bank (100 miles off Palawan) would be lost. CHINA: Apart from asserting sovereignty over “an area defined by the “9-dash line,” a right that China asserts “goes back centuries to when the Paracel [disputed by Vietnam] and Spratly island chains were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation” (BBC News), China has refused to take part in the case, or to accept the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. (see the PROC’s Position Paper, 7 Dec. 2014) Part 3. Philippines Resorts to Arbitration in accordance with UNCLOS Philippines’ “Rules-based” Approach. As Reichler explains: “Confronting China militarily is not a viable option. The Philippines does not have the kind of economic or commercial influence” to change her behavior.” But the one option that appeared was the law” because “before an arbitral tribunal, a small State that is weaker militarily, economically, commercially, has the opportunity, at least, to compete on equal terms.” (Reichler, A UNCLOS discussion) Philippines’ Strategic Approach in the Arbitration. Adhering to the requisites of UNCLOS, the Philippines did not seek a ruling “on the territorial sovereignty aspect.” She instead sought a “clarification of her maritime entitlements.” Reichler elaborates: Under UNCLOS, “a coastal state entitlement is described as a 12-mile entitlement to a territorial sea over which the coast exercises sovereignty over land, and almost a 200-mile economic zone off its coast.” Within 200 miles off its coast, “a State has an exclusive entitlement to use the living resources, fish in the water, and the non-living resources under the sea bed, that is, the continental shelf.” “China’s claims conflict with this sovereignty or sovereign rights not only of 200 miles but of more than 800 miles” from her mainland coast. (A) 9-dash line. The Philippines’ “main claim” is that China’s 9-dash claim, that is, her claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights extending far beyond her entitlement under UNCLOS, is “inconsistent with that Convention and it constitutes a trespass or violation of the Philippines within 200 miles.” (Reichler, A UNCLOS Discussion) Reichler emphasizes: “Sovereignty is disputed.” But under UNCLOS, an arbitral tribunal “does not have jurisdiction to determine sovereignty over land features, and that includes islands or insular formation. However, what the Philippines has asked of the Tribunal is that it determine the status of this feature under the Convention, that is, is it a true island which would generate, like a State with a coastline, a 200- mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, or is it what the Convention refers to as a rock, an insular feature that is above water at high tide?” (Reichler; bold added) Read more: http://maritimereview.ph/2016/01/18/philippines-vs-china-arbitral-claims-under-unclos/