Arbitration is right, aggressive behavior is not


When China’s Ambassador to ASEAN first wrote an article about China’s ill-advised position on the Philippine arbitration case (The Jakarta Post, Dec. 26), we did not bother to reply as the arguments presented were an old rehash of China’s so-called historic rights and were refutations of the rulings issued by the Arbitral Tribunal.

Indeed, the Tribunal unanimously affirmed that it had jurisdiction over the case and that “the Philippines’ act of initiating this arbitration did not constitute an abuse of process.” The Tribunal made it clear as well that “China’s non-appearance in these proceedings does not deprive the Tribunal of jurisdiction,” and “the Tribunal held that the Philippines had sought to negotiate with China and […] international law does not require a State to continue negotiations when it concludes that the possibility of a negotiated solution has been exhausted.”

No better arguments could have been given than those already issued by the esteemed Arbitral Tribunal.

Article 33 (1) of the UN Charter specifically mentions arbitration and judicial settlement as mechanisms for the compulsory settlement of disputes for all the Charter’s signatories, including the Philippines and China. Arbitration is not an unfriendly act as China repeatedly claims. In fact, the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes Between States, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly, specifically states that the judicial settlement of disputes “should not be considered an unfriendly act between states”.

However, with his second article which appeared on Jan. 14, the Chinese Ambassador is being deliberately inaccurate and misleading; we are constrained to reply. The article’s main premise, as is misleadingly indicated by its title, is an attempt to justify China’s coercive and provocative actions in the South China Sea, including the harassment of small fishermen, the rape and plunder of the features in the disputed areas and even well within the Philippines’ own exclusive economic zones and arrogant display of its mighty naval power.

The article tries to pull the wool down the readers’ eyes by saying that China’s “development activities” would benefit the public good. It conveniently redefined such “development activities” by not mentioning that these consisted of harassment of small Filipino fishermen with water cannons in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), massive land reclamation and construction, massive destruction of the marine environment in several reefs, imposition of an Air Defense Identification Zone (AIDIZ) in the East China Sea last Nov. 23 and threats of a potential ADIZ in the South China Sea, imposition of a fishing ban in some parts of the South China Sea, unilateral placing of the HD981 Oil Rig in the waters off Vietnam, violations of safety zones of the Galoc oil field located 37 nautical miles northwest off the Philippines Palawan province, its recent test flights in its artificial islands in the South China Sea and many more aggressive and provocative actions. All in the name of pursuing peace, the article says.

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