July 15, 2019
IT will help public comprehension of the issues and stakes in our maritime dispute with China if the government and its critics both disclose the facts of the dispute, and desist from muddling the argument with deceptive claims.
The government’s critics contend that the country won sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea after its legal victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in July 2016.
They say that the Duterte administration must do better in protecting its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
President Duterte and his administration on the other hand contend that while the arbitral ruling was important, the Philippines did not win and does not have sovereignty over the waters. All it has are sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in a portion of the South China Sea.
The opposition stresses West Philippine Sea. The administration mentions only the exclusive economic zone.
President Duterte says that pressing too insistently on the arbitral ruling could lead to conflict with China, a war which the country can hardly fight at this point.
The critics say that Duterte is using the war scare to intimidate the people into accepting his appeasement of China.
There will be clarity and understanding of the argument if the truth about the West Philippine Sea is fully brought out in the open.
At the third anniversary of the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, and former ombudsman and justice Conchita Carpio-Morales joined together in telling a forum at the University of the Philippines that our country is waiving or throwing away everything it won in the historic arbitral ruling.
They contended that three years after winning against China at the PCA, the Philippines is achieving the exact opposite of its legal victory in the dispute.
Mrs. Morales declared that Filipinos own the West Philippine Sea.
Until this controversy, most Filipinos did not know about the WPS. It did not appear in the books and maps we studied and used.
In fact, the West Philippine Sea only started to exist during the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
In September 2012, the Aquino government by administrative order announced that it would start using the name to refer to waters west of the Philippines as the “West Philippine Sea” in government maps, other forms of communication and documents.
Administrative Order No. 29 says: “The maritime areas on the western side of the Philippine archipelago are hereby named as the West Philippine Sea. These areas include the Luzon Sea as well as the waters around, within, adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal.
The administrative order asserts the Philippine claim over its EEZ in the South China Sea which conveys the Philippine government’s position that it has sovereign rights under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) over the West Philippine Sea area and “inherent power and right to designate its maritime areas with appropriate nomenclature for purposes of the national mapping system.”
The arbitral ruling on the sea dispute nowhere mentions the West Philippine Sea, so it is a delusion to say that we won sovereignty over the waters through the ruling.
It is also fact that UNCLOS does not confer on coastal states sovereignty over their exclusive economic zones. It recognizes only sovereign rights to exploit and use resources in the EEZ.
President Duterte and his dedicated critics will be more enlightening and enlightened if they can agree on terminology.
It would be a horrible disaster if we go to war over a misplaced name.
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