TUESDAY this week will not be an ordinary Tuesday. It will not be like the Tuesday when you had your firstborn. Or a Tuesday when you learned that you’ve been hired. Those kinds of Tuesdays are precious and personal. Tomorrow is not a Tuesday that is personal to anyone, yet is the kind that would alter the shape of Philippine history and of our collective future, as citizens of this country.
July 12 is the day when the United Nations Arbitral Court would render its decision on the Philippines’ case against China. A favorable ruling would give the international community a rational, moral, and legal basis to refute China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea. This is not just a battle over historical facts. The economic dimension to this case is huge. After all, the contested waters are part of the vast expanse of shipping lanes that connect East Asia with Europe and the Middle East. Over 4.5 trillion euros in trade rely on the freedom of navigation to and from various ports along these overlapping territories.
It should be a matter of national pride that the Philippines had decided to lodge a case against China, one of the world’s economic powers, before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), in The Hague, Netherlands. A favorable ruling would smash China’s nine-dash-line claim and underscore its irrelevance under international law. The complaint was filed in Jan. 2013 under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, with the full support of then-President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd.
The world awaits this epic decision. China has lined up allies from around the world, mainly benefactors of its generous aid packages, in support of its stand. China will strongly reject a favorable decision on Tuesday. We already know what it will do. On the other hand, we are not without our own set of allies. The Philippines has the support of the United States, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. The European Union has advised China to respect the UN decision.
What is clear is that the world has long lost its appetite for a full-blown war, triggered by deadly territorial disputes, especially one that would involve not just two, but several other claimant-countries. The decision to be handed down by the UN Arbitral Court is the voice of reason. The thunder of military might, or even just the swagger of it, can easily drown out that voice.