OUR “maritime entitlements” won over China’s “historical rights.”
In victory we are asked to restrain ourselves, not to provoke, not to gloat, but to behave like diplomats. Good advice. Especially let’s not allow a third party to stir up trouble and renew tensions over the West Philippine Sea, now that the world knows we’ve the upper hand.
In divorce or annulment proceedings, a third party is usually blamed for the acrimonious breakup of a couple.
Similarly, in a dispute involving two states, a third party, particularly one with imperialist motives, would only muddy the waters. Beijing has indicated that it will be easier talking with the new administration of President Duterte. Our ambassador to China, the prescient Erlinda Basilio, should be a member of the PH panel. As early as the summer of 2015 she had already boiled down the feud to the same argument of “maritime entitlements vs historical rights” that the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration based its decision on.
After winning a battle that required 35 experts to argue our case at The Hague, we now have the legal, moral, political right to hold our heads high and hope that the other claimants will be happy for us and support the cause with more vigor than before. The Court’s ruling takes into account not only topics of sovereignty and freedom of navigation, it also addresses destruction of marine life and their environment, the natural features of the islands, and the fragile ecosystem. These are not solely the Philippines’ concerns.
China will neither accept nor acknowledge this landmark decision; it may be binding but there’s no way it can or will be enforced by law or force. On his 13th day in office, President Duterte faced his first test as the leader of a country with national pride and international connectivity. Out of sight and keeping his diplomatic silence while meeting with his Cabinet to pore over the 501-page decision, he would have been glad to read a Reuters report dated Jan. 16, 2016, datelined London/Singapore, that “despite the diplomatic tensions, merchant shipping operations are as yet unaffected” and “for ship owners it’s business as usual.”
Let’s Du it, let’s keep it that way. (Jullie Y. Daza)