Government told to assert 2016 arbitral award against China

THE PHILIPPINE government should assert a 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed court that invalidated China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea, political analysts said on Tuesday.

“The issue confronting the Philippines is not how to enforce it,” Herman Joseph S. Kraft, who heads the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science, said in a mobile phone message.

“Rather, it is getting over our reluctance to be more assertive in enforcing it because of concerns about how China might react,” he added.

The government should be more forceful in pushing back against China’s military expansionism in the South China Sea, said Renato C. De Castro, an International Studies professor at De La Salle University.

“The South China Sea issue is one of China’s core interests along with Taiwan and Tibet,” he said in a text message. “This means China is willing to use force to defend these core interests.”

Mr. De Castro added that the arbitral court ruling had invalidated China’s militarization of the disputed waterway even if China doesn’t want to recognize it.

He said antagonizing China might be destructive but the only way to push back China’s maritime expansion is to wage war.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier said the Philippines could not afford to wage war against China.

“I respect your position and you respect mine. But we will not go to war,” Mr. Duterte earlier said.

Mr. Kraft said the best way to enforce the ruling is to “work with other countries.” “You want a code of conduct in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he said. “It has to have as a core component, the Hague rul-ing.”

In June, China and ASEAN countries agreed to continue working to come up with a code. They were supposed to resume talks this month. Their representatives last met in 2019, just before the global coronavirus pandemic.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, Netherlands ruled that the Philippines has exclusive economic zone rights in the South China Sea. It voided China’s claim to most of the sea based on a 1940 nine-dash line map. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago

The Philippine Coast Guard on Monday said it had driven away a Chinese warship in the South China Sea, in another sign of tension between the two nations.

The Coast Guard had sent a verbal challenge to a Chinese warship spotted at Marie Louise Bank, it said, citing a July 13 report. The Chinese vessel eventually moved away from the area.

The foreign vessel sent a radio message identifying itself as “Chinese Navy Warship 189” and asked the Philippine ship tailing it to keep distance, the Coast Guard said.

The two nations’ vessels have been locked in a standoff in the South China Sea for months after hundreds of Chinese ships swarmed the disputed territory earlier this year.

The Philippines has repeatedly protested the ships’ presence and has been backed by the US, while Beijing has said its actions were normal and legitimate. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago

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