Marcos Jr.’s position on West Philippine Sea is vague and disturbing
The stand of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. over the West Philippine Sea issue, particularly on the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) 2016 ruling in The Hague in favor of the Philippines that invalidated China’s sweeping claims over almost the entire sea, is vague and truly disturbing.
Asked on the issue by host Boy Abunda during “The 2022 Presidential One-On-One Interviews with Boy Abunda” recently, Marcos Jr. effectively dismissed the arbitral decision, claiming that “[arbitration] is no longer available to us” and that the only option left to us is “to continue to engage the Chinese” through bilateral agreement. He further asserted that superpowers such as the United States and the Soviet Union must not be involved in the dispute, saying that “the problem is between China and us.”
In effectively asserting that the arbitral ruling could not be enforced, he claimed that China was not a signatory to that ”arbitration agreement,” arguing that in arbitration there must be an agreement between the two opposing parties (“agreement of the two different parties” were his exact words). In fine, he sided with China’s stubborn position that it was not bound by the PCA’s questioned ruling in that it was not a party to the arbitration proceedings.
Marcos’ argument is misplaced.
In arbitration, there are at least three parties, the third or independent party being called the judge or arbitrator. In simple terms, arbitration is a way of settling dispute(s) between parties who agree to submit such dispute(s) for resolution by their chosen judges or arbitrators. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos came into force on Nov. 16, 1994, an international law that provides a regulatory framework for the use of the world’s seas and oceans, among others, to ensure the conservation and equitable usage of resources and the marine environment and to ensure the protection and preservation of the living resources of the sea. It also addresses such other matters as sovereignty, rights of usage in maritime zones, and navigational rights. Article 287(3) of the law provides a procedure for the settlement of the maritime dispute if, for instance, a member-state has not expressed any preference with respect to the means of dispute resolution under Article 287(1) thereof, or otherwise fails or refuses to cooperate.
The People’s Republic of China signed and ratified the Unclos, and therefore it cannot legally and rightly disclaim not to be a party to the questioned case arbitrated and decided by the UN-backed PCA pursuant to the provisions of this international law.
DIOSDADO “DADS” CALONGE
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