- The Hague's recent ruling on the South China/West Philippine Sea arbitration between the Philippines and China was released last Tuesday, July 12
- However, the ruling has incited mixed reactions, with some people refusing to take it as a step forward in the territorial dispute
- Why do these people - comprising a majority, in fact - not want to celebrate this historic milestone? Why are we apologetic for the victory? Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino encourages everyone to change their mindset in his article
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Perhaps it was in how Perfecto Yasay sounded more like he was announcing his looming execution rather than rejoicing in a significant milestone in the fight for territory. Perhaps it was in his somber, unsmiling countenance, or the wording of his statements that made him sound more like a propaganda officer of the Chinese Communist Party than the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines.
Perhaps it was in these subtle behavioral ticks that we began asking ourselves: are we apologizing for our win in the territorial dispute?
The art of diplomacy
We, who are not of the foreign services will, of course, be reminded that there are rules to be followed in the subtle art of diplomacy - that there are certain intricacies that need to be observed. However, we question: when was Yasay a top-notch diplomat, and what set of rules considers it right for neighborly considerations - comity, in international law and relations jargon - to transcend law, truth, and justice?informed that the Beijing government must be given a chance to save face - or risk being dethroned by a wildly nationalistic population. But why do we not talk about whether we should save face? Were we not evicted from the territory, our fishermen hosed, our resources coldly snatched away from us, the seas declared off-limits to our boats? And finally, now that judgment has placed the law on our side, we are more concerned about the Chinese government saving face?
The Philippines is informed that the Beijing government must be given a chance to save face - or risk being dethroned by a wildly nationalistic population. But why do we not talk about whether we should save face? Were we not evicted from the territory, our fishermen hosed away, our resources coldly snatched away from us, the seas declared off-limits to our boats? And finally, now that judgment has placed the law on our side, we are more concerned about the Chinese government saving face?
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This is all quite strange, to say the least. Some have gone as far as calling this treason, except that legally, treason can't technically be committed unless we are at war - which is exactly what China has promised to bring down upon us if we insist on pushing our claims.
The law is on our side
Keeping within the confines of judgment will help us retain credibility. Since the legal framework is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, there was no adjudication of territorial rights. However, certain uses of island or land features constitute an infringement of sovereign rights over the Exclusive Economic Zone.
"Sovereignty" is a touchy concept, but it's one that best sums up everything that is associated with Statehood. It is not sovereignty that concerned the tribunal, but sovereign rights - what the UNCLOS recognizes for a coastal respect with respect to the Exclusive Economic Zone and its continental shelf.
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Now, the world has been informed that the law is with us, after and despite repeated Chinese claims based on the historic title - claims that have been rejected by the tribunal.
Many worry about the enforcement of the ruling. Some believe that the judgment is of no use. This dismissiveness fails to recognize the difference between enforcement mechanisms within a State, and those surrounding the community of States.
When analyzing the latter, there can be no "vertical enforcement", which means that no superior being can enforce anything. This is what States in their sovereignty are. Thus, the enforcement available in the international sphere is horizontal - it is brought about by the pressure among states to preserve relations with each other.
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The PROC maintains many other claims. It must at least lay some grounding to the legitimacy of these claims by hooking them on to some principle or rule of international law. It cannot, without sacrificing these claim's legitimacy, flaunt a disregard for a lawfully rendered judgment.
It is possible to rejoice about how judgment has laid itself in our favor, about how we are on the right side of the law, about how the rights are not just claims we have made but are lawfully ours.
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