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A lot of people expect a United Nations arbitration court to rule in favor of our country over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Why not? The Philippines filed the petition in 2013 in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which it ratified along with 165 other nations.
The Philippines challenged China’s claims after losing control of Panatag Shoal off the coast of Zambales, that was seized by China in 2012 after a two-month standoff with our navy.
UNCLOS defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, setting up guidelines for the environment, businesses and the management of marine natural resources.
It prescribed the sole rights of a state regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind, in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which extends out to 200 nautical miles from the baseline.
Everything is based on legality, unlike the claim of China on territorial waters which is based on historical records and nothing more.
Although China expects the arbitration court to rule in favor of the Philippines in the coming weeks, its officials have no intention of accepting or recognizing it.
Granting that the decision favors the Philippines, this brings us to the question: How in the world can the ruling be implemented since the UN court does not have any enforcement capability?
What’s the use of a convention on the law of the sea and being part of its 166-member nations if it has no power to make its decisions effective?
A report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post revealed China even has plans to establish an outpost on Panatag Shoal.
Will we remain powerless and remain an audience while they construct another artificial island right under our noses?
Are we meant to be bullied and robbed of our territorial waters by China, just because we lack the military muscle to defend our rights?
Everything would be different if we were a little more rigid in exercising our laws on the sea, the way the late President Ferdinand Marcos was during his time.
They say that China then would not even dream of stealing our property lest they get blasted from where they stood.
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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email email@example.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)