By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines,
and Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines
July 13, 2016
THE PHILIPPINES is now in an overwhelmingly superior or far more advantageous position than ever before in legal, political and material terms after the clear-cut judgment of the Arbitral Tribunal in favor of the Philippines against China’s spurious claims of historic rights over more than 90 per cent of the South China and in particular over more than 80 per cent of the exclusive economic zone and 100 per cent of the extended continental shelf of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
In legal terms, China is a categorical loser by virtue of the judgment of the Artbitral Tribunal. It can no longer precondition and terminate any bilateral negotiation with the Philippines by making the absurd claim of indisputable sovereignty over the almost entire South China Sea. Moreover, China merely discredits itself by its own self-contradiction within the framework of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) of which it is a signatory. It invoked provisions in the UNCLOS to argue against the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal over the case filed by the Philippines. But the same UNCLOS provides the Arbitral Tribunal with the authority to decide that the case filed by the Philippines is within its jurisdiction. China is estopped from claiming that the judgment of the tribunal is null and void. It spits on its signature on the UNCLOS.
In political terms, China can ignore or oppose the judgment of the Arbitral Tribunal but faces further damage to its reputation and risks isolation among its own fellow capitalist powers, among the UNCLOS signatories and UN General Assembly member-countries and among the ASEAN countries. China cannot effectively pressure the Philippines with the threat or use of war or any significant amount of violence over the Philippine entitlements under UNCLOS, unless China wants to appear further as a violator of international law and justify other capitalist powers to come to the aid of the Philippines or to stage big convoys and shows of force. The US does not have to have military bases in the Philippines under the pretext of protecting the Philippines. After the judgment of the Arbitral Tribunal, the Philippines is in a strong legal and political position to negotiate appropriate economic and trade relations even with China in due time.
In material terms, the Philippines is now in a legally and politically confident position to make contracts with the corporations of various countries for the purpose of exploring and exploiting the oil and gas resources in the exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf of the Philippines. The policy of the Philippines should be to stay in control of exploration and production agreements and give more concessions to countries that have the necessary technology but are less dominating than others. Since the artificial islands were made by China illegally and with serious damage to marine life and the environment, the Philippines can decide to demand compensation for the damage and to demolish the artificial islands or preserve them for beneficial uses, as sea resort, base for navigational aids or as platforms for energy exploration and exploitation by corporations other than Chinese.
For so long as China insists that it owns the West Philippine Sea and the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, the Philippines should first pay attention to consolidating its sovereign power and authority over its entitlements under UNCLOS and relating to countries other than China for the purpose. Bilateral negotiations and relations with China will become beneficial only when it stops making unlawful claims and deploying military force to hinder lawful economic activities and navigation in the West Philippine Sea.#