China must respect others | Inquirer Opinion
Like It Is

China must respect others

/ 12:08 AM September 10, 2015

China says the right to the islands, reefs and rocks in the West Philippine/South China Sea is incontestable. It is right, they incontestably belong to the Philippines. In whatever way you consider it—historical, geographical, international law, or just plain common sense—they incontestably belong to the Philippines. And China has disregarded that and provocatively invaded Philippine territory with an arrogance that is frightening and disgraceful.

The President was quite right to liken China to Nazi Germany. Xi Jinping is the Hitler of today. The young people of Hong Kong certainly think so, even if they’ve complained only in the nicest manner. Taiwan must be understandably scared of the looming threats to the freedom it enjoys that the mainland Chinese do not. It could well lose the democracy mainland Chinese are denied, the way China is acting.


I’m going to summarize for you the excellent, and excellently researched, paper of the Supreme Court’s Senior Associate Justice Tony Carpio:

In 2002, China agreed that if there were any disputes, they’d be resolved under international law. No mention of them being resolved on an historical basis—until 11 years later, in 2013, when suddenly China said it owned those areas beginning in historical times, based on the (in)famous nine-dash line. That “history” came from a map drawn in 1947.


The Philippines has a map from 1734 showing its ownership of those contested areas—something China had never disputed for 213 years, something that even since 1947 it had never disputed, until now.

China asserts that “territory passed down by previous generations to the present one will not be forgotten or sacrificed.” Well, 1947 is not “generations,” it’s not even one. Some 280 years of Philippine proof of ownership is generations, four of them.

That map, the originality of which has been scientifically confirmed, was discovered and bought (for $266,869) by Mr. Mel Velasco Velarde, a wonderfully patriotic Filipino, who has donated it to the Philippine government. He deserves a medal. That map disputes China’s other claim that it first discovered the islands hundreds of years ago, before they were occupied by Japan during World War II. If they were, why is its only map dated 1947?

The Chinese did do a lot of exploring, but they never claimed ownership of the lands they visited. Where are their maps of centuries ago? They have only a Chinese political leader making verbal, unsubstantiated claims of ownership.

If China wants to invoke history as a right, then the Chinese of today don’t own China; the Mongolians do because Genghis Khan and Kublai Klan conquered China in the 13th century. So Xi Jinping had better step down and hand his nation back. One could go on with many examples, all saying one thing: History doesn’t determine ownership. If it does, Spain and Portugal would own all the oceans of the world because they did in the 15th century. That the Chinese sailed some of these waters then didn’t give it any greater right than those two countries. But if it insists, then by the historical map of 1734, the Philippines owns the contested islands, not China based on its 1947 modern map. And to claim a map it drew as the justification of ownership is patently absurd. Anyone can draw a “map.” It would only be acceptable if others agreed to it. But no one else does.

History is incontestably on the Philippines’ side. Then there’s geography. It is recognized by all nations that no one owns the seas, but under international law as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (or Unclos), which is also accepted by all, including China (as it is a signatory to the treaty), nations own the territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles (NM) off the shore and have economic rights to exploit the seas up to 200 NM from the coast. All the contested islands are within 200 NM of the Philippines. The major islands contested are the Spratlys, which are 54 NM from the Philippine coast and more than 540 NM from China’s. That alone indicates who’s the logical owner. And international law supports that geographical claim. In the Spratlys, the adjacent coastal state can only be the Philippines. Geographically, it’s incontestably clear who owns what.

And common sense just reinforces all this.


Quite simply, the only right China has to the islands is the right of force. It has ignored all international norms and agreements, and has taken the islands because it can. It has often acted like, and ever so correctly been called, a bully. It’s a disgraceful exhibition of power unscrupulously used for its own selfish ends.

If this is how China will act into the future, a country that has no respect for others, then we and our neighbors, if not the world, can expect more trouble.

This column was written based on the wonderful work done by the highly respected Justice Tony Carpio, whose decisions on controversial cases I take as my guide.

* * *

I find the Supreme Court decision granting bail to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile disturbing. I am all for having compassion for the elderly and sick. But how many other elderly people are in jail on nonbailable offenses who have not been given such special treatment, and are not likely to be? That needs answering.

And if Senator Enrile is frail and ill, why is he back in the Senate in apparent workable health? And wasn’t he in a government hospital where his health problems were well looked after? Eight justices have acted illogically and indiscriminately in an institution that is supposed to be blindfolded.

* * *

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TAGS: Bail, China, Hitler, Juan Ponce Enrile, Nazi Germany, Nine-Dash Line, South China Sea, Supreme Court, West Philippine Sea, xi jinping
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