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Vietnam’s balancing act in the South China Sea

/ 05:14 AM July 20, 2017

A year after The Hague ruling, commentators have flooded the geopolitical arena. One former Vietnamese government official and expert on the South China Sea issue has called on all the claimant countries in the territorial and maritime dispute to treat the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines last year as a “valuable precedent” in following the rule of law in the contested sea.

The landmark ruling of July 12, 2016 found that China had no historical rights over the disputed parts of the South China Sea and invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the area. I recall that the ruling, which was overwhelmingly favorable to the Philippines, was immediately dismissed as “a farce” by China, which did not participate in the case. But with regard to this issue, claimant countries should continue to implement a more robust, practical and specific legal initiative. This is the only way Asean can counter China’s coercive tactics, for instance mistreating the Vietnamese.

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Vietnam has been adamant against China; a balancing act against the emerging power in the Asia-Pacific. Curiously though, why is Hanoi not hailing Beijing to The Hague? Why is Hanoi content to just sit and watch, and cheer the Philippines as it waged a proxy word-war against China on America’s behalf? Why does Hanoi refuse to throw their hat in the ring with us? And more curiously still, why did Hanoi make a 180-degree turn in late 2014 when Vietnam’s national cyber security agency discovered that many Vietnamese-American bloggers in Saigon or HCM City were using the anti-China protests there to topple the Vietnamese government? Thereafter, why did Hanoi send its top cadres to Beijing to mend fences after they discovered US plots to destabilize and depose Hanoi? Those Vietnamese-American bloggers are more like the Fil-American operatives working for the CIA, just like in our country.

Meanwhile, since Hanoi acknowledges the arbitral tribunal ruling, why are Vietnamese fishing vessels still encroaching on our fishing waters, aided by their strong klieg lights which are prohibited under our maritime laws? Before Chiara Zambrano of ABS-CBN left for Marawi, she reported on how Vietnamese fishing vessels were frequently spotted not far from “Kalboro.”

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Further, I can only hope that the AFP will recommend to the President to thoroughly study and publicize the ruling’s content as a valuable precedent, a lesson in following the rule of law. I have always believed that that the ruling was not merely intended to define the winner between the Philippines and China. It was not intended to undermine China’s prestige and honor in the regional and international community. Rather, it protects the truth, the right to maintain and promote the effectiveness of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

RICARDO E. CATINDIG, Meycauayan, Bulacan [email protected]

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TAGS: Inquirer letters, Maritime Dispute, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Ricardo E. Catindig, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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