Philippines panatag-spratley

Comments on the Philippine case before ITLOS and Arbitral Tribunal

By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
NDFP Chief Political Consultant

In a previous interview, I said that the strongest piece of international law in favor of the Philippines is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), particularly with regard to the 200 mile exclusive economic zone. I even challenged the Manila government to file a case in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

By manifestations through writing and mass actions, the patriotic and progressive forces have stood for Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity over the islands or islets in question in the sea west of the Philippines on the basis of UNCLOS and other international instruments. This is not the first time that their position has concurred with that of the Philippine reactionary government on a territorial issue, as in the case of Sabah.

It is better than not for the Philippines to file the case before ITLOS and in particular the Arbitral Tribunal as the chosen mechanism for arbitration regarding the islands or islets west of the Philippines. When the revolutionary government gains the personality to make representations for the Philippines in the community of states, it will certainly take responsibility for asserting territorial integrity.

The Chinese government of today invokes the position of previous Chinese governments as far back as the feudal dynasties in the same manner as the irredentist Mussolini of Italy invoked the scope of the ancient Roman empire to claim territories. The Chinese government also argues that certain territories are owned by a country no matter how far those are and closer to other countries. But it should also mention that such territories are usually habitated by nationals of the owning country (e.g. British territories closer to Germany and France than to the UK), or occupied through colonization (e.g. Malvinas island and all previous British colonies).

The Philippines cannot accept the view that China is ever willing to negotiate with the Philippines and yet it asserts from beginning to end that its claim of sovereignty over the islands in question is nonnegotiable. What China actually means is that it has the sovereignty and territorial integrity over the islands and the Philippines can only negotiate or beg for some accommodations, like permission for Filipino fishermen to fish in the area, to have more time to tow away the stranded boat on Ayungin shoal, or continue the joint oil exploration stupidly agreed to by the Arroyo regime.

I do not agree with the view that the Philippines should not have filed the case against China before ITLOS and the Arbitral Tribunal, supposedly because the Philippines should fear retaliation from China and/or because the Philippines stands to gain something from “negotiating” with China. Even after filing of the case, it is still possible to negotiate the issue out of court. After all, there are more matters than this issue that require both China and the Philippines to negotiate and transact business. In the first place, filing the case before ITLOS and the Arbitral Tribunal is not a violent act at all, no matter how China presents it as a hostile act. Had the Philippines desisted from filing the case, China would have certainly used the desistance as proof of a Philippine lack of conviction and interest in the case.

The national democratic movement must stand firm for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and should not give a chance to the Aquino regime, its military minions and propagandists to misrepresent it as pro-China on the issue at hand, in order to favor their vicious use of the issue to justify their collaboration with the US in the violation of Philippine national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The US is a long-standing violator and a far bigger transgressor of Philippine territory than other foreign forces. It has arrogated unto itself the power and privilege of occupying the Philippines at will, under the guise of protector and under other guises.

A former diplomatic official of the Philippine reactionary government has said that it is futile for the Philippines to file a case before ITLOS and the Arbitral Tribunal. He says that China can refuse to go before the international tribunal and that, as a matter of real politik, China can even defy a ruling favorable to the Philippines because the tribunal does not have any enforcement agency and China has veto power in the UN Security Council. Furthermore, the US will in fact remain neutral over the issue between China and Philippines or can even join China in the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the disputed area. But it is decisively necessary and better for the Philippines to make a well-grounded and sustained case before the international tribunal and before world public opinion, especially for long-term purposes, than do nothing at all.

The national democratic movement should assert that the islands in question belong to the Filipino people or the Philippines as a country in accordance with the UNCLOS and oppose the following:

  1. The claim and related actions of China in contravention of the UNCLOS.
  2. The US for taking advantage of the territorial dispute in order to entrench itself further in the Philippines and does worse than China in encroaching upon the entire Philippines and violating Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  3. The Philippine reactionary government for puppetry to the US, for believing that the US is its best protector against Chin,a and for belatedly making the case before ITLOS and the Arbitral Tribunal.

The national democratic movement should take a long term view. The future revolutionary government shall be in a fundamentally better position to assert national sovereignty and territorial integrity because it shall engage in national industrialization and become capable of producing the ships, planes and other instruments to defend the country and people. It shall be in a position to deal properly with the Chinese comprador big bourgeoisie now expĺoiting the Philippines and the Chinese mining operations now plundering the natural resources of the Philippines, and all other forms of unwelcome Chinese intrusions.

It shall not be limited to being a passive object of interest of the US and China, and shall avail of broad diplomatic and trade relations in order to preempt subservience to any foreign power. Now and in the future, the more than one hundred million Filipino people and the other hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia should not allow themselves to be bullied by any foreign power.

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