UN multilateral diplomacy is not PH vs China
With reference to the article of Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban (“Yes, elevate ruling to UN but not now,” 9/6/20), let me emphasize the following :
1) It is not the Philippines vs. China in the UN. Multilateral diplomacy requires coalition-building. It is Team Philippines vs Team China, each side forming its team. Bloc voting is common in the UN. Thus, we must approach countries that can influence the votes of other UN members. In this regard, the United States, France, and Great Britain will be our logical allies. The French and the British can influence the votes of their former colonies since they continue to prop up these countries with substantial foreign aid. The US can influence the votes of the countries in the Americas. This region is very favorable to us; the Latinos consider us a kindred country and invariably support us in the UN. In addition, the Latin American countries are the most ravaged countries by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated from China. The timing of the vote is against China on this issue.
2) Geography also works in our favor. There are 27 island “micro-states” members of the UN. To cite two examples: Maldives — land area 300 sq km, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf (CS) 957,000 sq km; and Tonga — land area 748 sq km, EEZ/CS 671,000 sq km. The miniscule land area vis a vis the aquatic domain conferred by Unclos is typical of all the island micro-states. These states will not be viable entities without Unclos.
3) The other big gainers in Unclos are the 15 island states which include the Philippines. Our land area is 300,000 sq km, our EEZ/CS total 1,862,000 sq km. New Zealand, meanwhile — land area 265,000 sq km, EEZ/CS 4,360,000 sq km. These two groups comprising 42 states will be the biggest losers if Unclos is not enforced. It is difficult to see what inducements the Chinese can offer these states to support its position. In the case of the micro-states, China will be asking them to virtually commit suicide.
4) There are other issues that leaves China vulnerable because of its internal policies. The incarceration of the Muslim Uyghurs must have upset most Muslim nations. We have several Muslim ambassadors. If we submit the WPS dispute to the UN, we can send our Muslim ambassadors to New York to lobby the members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to support our position.
5) Finally, the votes in the UNGA under the “Uniting For Peace Resolution” is not a one-shot affair. The same resolution could be introduced every year. During this author’s tour of duty in the UN, we did that when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in the 1980s. With our Asean partners, we kept on introducing the same resolution every year demanding Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia, until the former complied with the resolution. Meaning, that in the unlikely event China wins in the first balloting by in effect “buying” the votes of other UN members, Beijing will have to keep on buying votes every year to sustain her position.
6) Justice Panganiban may have concerns that we may not pursue our case enthusiastically before the UN at this time. The statements of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on the issue could indeed be a cause for alarm. Locsin first stated that “China has all the votes in the UN.” His amended statement made matters worse: “China would be able to rally support from small nations to its side, and we’ll lose it.” The situation of the micro and island states contradicts his second statement. It is consistent with the dictum of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels that “You can tell a lie, follow it with a bigger lie, and eventually the public will believe you.” The downside of this approach is it erodes the credibility of Locsin. A foreign minister must have high credibility to perform his tasks.
Having said that, we should submit the case to the UN asap and see if there are traitors in our midst. We are not limited to one shot in the UN.
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Hermenegildo C. Cruz is a career diplomat and served as ambassador to the UN, the Soviet Union, Bolivia, and Chile. During his tour of duty in the UN in the 1980s, ASEAN, which includes the Philippines, led the initiative in the UNGA which compelled Vietnam to withdraw its invasion force from Kampuchea (Cambodia).
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