Testing the UN
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
The Philippines has finally taken China to a United Nations arbitration tribunal to challenge its claim to most of the West Philippine Sea, and to compel it to respect the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone and stop Chinese incursions into the disputed areas. Faced with increased assertiveness and belligerence from the superpower, particularly in areas that are believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves, the Philippines has been left with practically no choice but to run to the arbitration tribunal to find a peaceful solution to the problem.
In the “notification and statement of claim” filed before the UN, the Philippine government said the arbitration was not seeking to declare who owns which islands in the disputed waters. What it is asking is for the UN to compel China to respect the Philippines’ rights to exclusively explore and exploit resources within its EEZ and continental shelf as declared under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Department of Foreign Affairs hopes that the arbitral tribunal will issue an award in accordance with international law that will direct China to respect our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our EEZ, continental shelf, contiguous zone and territorial sea over the West Philippine Sea, and to desist from undertaking unlawful acts that violate our rights.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila simply restated Beijing’s claim to the contested waters and strongly insisted on its position that claimants settle the dispute through negotiations, the preferred choice of a nation who believes that as a legitimate world superpower, they can bully their less powerful neighbors into submission.
As we can honestly say that we have exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of this dispute, it is about time that we stood up against the neighborhood bully and take this issue for an international tribunal to settle. Hopefully the UN can pass this test of its authority and influence over its member nations and prove that it is indeed the place where nations, both big and small, can settle their differences in a civilized manner.*