Why the Philippines backed out from speaking at ICJ on Chagos Archipelago dispute



MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has acknowledged that he helped Mauritius in its claim over the Chagos Archipelago using the South China Sea arbitration ruling.

In February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected the United Kingdom’s claim of sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia Island.

The United Nations’s highest court ordered the UK to “bring an end to its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

Speaking at the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, Locsin said the Philippines won a vote in the UN for an advisory opinion to the ICJ on the claim of Mauritius against the UK.

“I helped Mauritius of the Chagos (Archipelago) claim versus Britain using Justice (Antonio) Carpio’s brief on the arbitral award to argue against the British,” Locsin told former Australian Prime Minister and Asia Society President Kevin Rudd.

Carpio was part of the Philippine delegation in the country’s arbitration against China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea.

A year after the Philippines submitted its advisory opinion on the Chagos Archipelago case, Locsin was asked to speak during the oral arguments of the case.

The Philippines’ top diplomat, however, refused to speak before the ICJ.

“One year later the advisory opinion comes down and Mauritius says, ‘Now let’s put it to a vote again. Of course, Ted, you’re going in. No, I’m not,'” Locsin said.

“Because any change in the relationship between you and Britain involves the presence of the United States in the Indian Ocean and I cannot impair it with the presence there because it’s the only guarantee of freedom,” he added.

The ICJ noted the Philippines’ refusal to make a statement on advisory opinion.

“By a letter dated 2 July 2018, the Philippines informed the Court that it would no longer be making a statement during the oral proceedings. By letters dated 10 July 2018, the Registrar informed Member States of the United Nations participating in the oral proceedings and the African union accordingly,” the ICJ said.

Locsin further pointed out that Mauritius won the case even without the Philippines taking part in the oral proceedings.

“They won the vote anyway — Mauritius. So that’s leaving UK, myself and the others out of (it),” Locsin said.

In his conversation with Rudd at the Asia Society forum, Locsin said the US military presence in Asia was the reason he opted not to speak before the ICJ.

Locsin also said he hopes the Philippines’ alliance with the US is “rock solid” under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

“Rock solid — we hope not just in words but in material commitments in American presence. We cannot see any way forward in Asia with any promise of freedom without American military presence,” the DFA chief said.