Philippines ‘wins’ favourable ruling over South China Sea but Filipinos ask “What’s Next?” #CHexit


Filipinos, it seems, have a rather loose definition of “winning”. As I write this, there is jubilation in the Philippines over the “favourable” ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on the matter of the disputed territories of the South China Sea. However, there is little indication that China will be in any mood to respect the PCA decision.

For one thing, China has, from the very start, asserted that it does not and will not recognise jurisdiction of the The Hague over this matter. Second, it has exhibited a wherewithal to invest heavily in the development of infrastructure and the colonisation of various islands in the disputed territory. And last and most important of all, a wealth of precedents have been set by other world powers ignoring any rulings by international bodies that are not in their favour.

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Nonetheless, the PCA in its final decision ruled that the actions of China in the disputed territories of the South China Sea and its so-called “nine-dash line” are “contrary to the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 10 December 1982] and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention”. However, the decision stopped short of favouring exclusive economic rights to any of the “maritime features” within the disputed zones specific to any one country among the claimants.

Then again, consider the behaviour of other countries that had found themselves in similar circumstances. Graham Allison writing for The Diplomat details the sorry record of the world’s mightiest nations when faced with rulings that their governments perceive to be not aligned with their nation’s sovereign interests. Allison cites how “none of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have ever accepted any international court’s ruling when (in their view) it infringed their sovereignty or national security interests.”

One of the examples he cites is quite confronting…

Anticipating the Court’s ruling in the case brought by the Philippines, UK Prime Minister David Cameron proclaimed: “We want to encourage China to be part of that rules-based world. We want to encourage everyone to abide by these adjudications.” Perhaps he had forgotten that just last year the PCA ruled that the UK had violated the Law of the Sea by unilaterally establishing a Marine Protected Area in the Chagos Islands. The British government disregarded the ruling, and the Marine Protected Area remains in place today.

As for the United States, the “ally” the Philippines is counting on to back any next steps it might take following the PCA ruling, our pal lacks any ascendancy to take China to task on the applicable laws in this instance. This is because the US has, itself, declined to ratify the UNCLOS and, as such, is not bound by it. On that note, Allison writes, “If China followed that precedent, it could withdraw from the Law of the Sea Treaty altogether – joining the United States as one of the world’s only nations not party to the agreement.”

For that matter, no great world power has ever become great nor powerful by bowing down to any other power or acceding to any agreement unfavourable to its long-term interests. As such, China’s stance is consistent with historical precedent overall. The Philippines, for its part, would not have found itself in this position had its past governments exercised more foresight surrounding national defense. Instead, successive governments had allowed the Philippines’ once-respectable military capability to degenerate to what is now less than a pale shadow of its former self.

The Philippines, therefore, faces the potentially embarrassing prospect of having to answer the question: What’s Next? Unless Filipinos can answer that question with a firm slam-dunk, any notion of a “win” in this instance can only be token at best. Considering that the Philippines lacks any capability to enforce the PCA ruling, coming up with a response that saves face will be the next big challenge ahead.

[Photo courtesy International Business Times.]

35 Replies to “Philippines ‘wins’ favourable ruling over South China Sea but Filipinos ask “What’s Next?” #CHexit”

  1. Who will enforce the PCA ruling ? This is the question. China does not recognize the ruling.

    The only recourse, the Philippines has, is: It must strengthen , its military defense capability. If China will claim more territories…then, the Philippines must defend its territories.

    We have to learn from the Taiwanese government, how they defended Taiwan, the islands of : Amoy and Quemoy. China was not able to grab those small islands. Inspire of its superior military capabilities. China had also a poor war performance, against the Vietnamese, at the end of the Vietnam war. China tried to incur inside the Vietnamese territory. However, they got beaten back !

    Learning from others, is the key here ! They can try to grab, but it will cost them , at a very high price in men and material. A comprehensive defense strategy, like Taiwan and Israel, must be formulated, to prevent another grab !

  2. I don’t think the Chinese will just remove what they have already built in those islands.

    The news shown on TV, explaining how we won just shows one side. Giving the common pinoy that happy thought of winning, when it is not even really the case yet. I would like to see a video showing a Chinese News Channel delivering the same (of course, with subtitles, haha)

    1. They will never give it up; unless we take back the islands, and occupy them.

      It is like the Malvinas(Falkland) islands in Argentina. Argentina took back the Islands; but the British took it back from them…legally, it is a territory of Argentina. The British renamed the Islands: Falkland, and populated it with British people…it is still in the hands of the British …

  3. we must start our own reclamation project in the area: Run a few more ships aground; dump concrete in a haphazard fashion; dump barges full of garbage; and lastly, deliver dangerous inmates from prisons all over the country and tell them to build a penal colony for themselves and survive.

    The issue is resolved because we have in effect Filipinized the area by introducing filth, crime and lack of urban planning in the area. Chinese fishermen will no longer want to go there and their military will be stumped with the question of what thwy are going to do with that penal colony in their way.

  4. Here’s the catch. International law or rulings in this instance are usually self enforced. Being a UN member state, and being signatory to UNCLOS you are expected to follow the rules dictated upon by International Law, specially if you are a party to that particular agreement as you have ratified it with your signature.

    Today, very few states don’t agree that we do not live in a “Rule Based Society” and because of this we rarely go to war to effect change, we usually sit down and come to terms in consensus, or least, we go to courts to settle controversies and disputes. China is one state that seems to adhere to a Rule Based World.

    However, the very rule in settling international disputes and its enforcing mechanism is also China’s biggest ally. Truth be told, UN Security Council can come up with a resolution (in relation to the Intl Tribunal ruling) condemning China’s acts in WPS, and may call on for a maritime peace keeping force, composed of UN Member States and let them patrol in the Spratlys and pressure the chinks in abandoning their continued illegal and sometimes hostile occupation in the WPS, but even before a resolution comes to a vote, it’s good as dead! Taaddaan! China is one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and welds a very powerful-VETO.

    I think, it’s only Uncle Sam (World Police) who’s gonna make a difference now. 🙂

  5. Ever heard of a sprawling archipelago with ZERO submarines??? What a joke!!!

    But there’s Captain America to the rescue. With nothing but a big mouth to enforce this thing, PH should just concede it is practically the 51st state of USA. You wanted to become federal right?

    Ok let’s all start memorizing now…”I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

    Anyway, this makes for a good reason to go out to Chowking to celebrate the victory over good Chinese food with friends.

  6. benign0,

    As for the United States, the “ally” the Philippines is counting on to back any next steps it might take following the PCA ruling, our pal lacks any ascendancy to take China to task on the applicable laws in this instance. This is because the US has, itself, declined to ratify the UNCLOS and, as such, is not bound by it. On that note, Allison writes, “If China followed that precedent, it could withdraw from the Law of the Sea Treaty altogether – joining the United States as one of the world’s only nations not party to the agreement.”

    It is inaccurate and misleading to characterise the United States as lacking the moral ascendancy to denounce China’s policies with regards to the Spratlys.

    Criticism of the United States is convenient rhetoric for the Chinese when defending their egregious behaviour in the South China Sea. But it is a fallacious argument that has NO substance.

    Let’s be clear: China is a signatory to (and as such, is party to) the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). While the United States has signed an updated UNCLOS agreement (Bill Clinton, 1994), the US Congress has never ratified the treaty. Despite that, multiple administrations (Democratic and Republican) and the US military have supported the Convention. In fact, top US Navy officials openly support acceding to UNCLOS. ‘I think that in the 21st century our moral standing is affected by the fact that we are not a signatory to UNCLOS,’ said Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in early 2016.

    US policy considers much of UNCLOS to confirm existing maritime law. The US government abides by its provisions relating to traditional uses of the oceans such as ‘freedom of navigation and overflight.’ The US as well as international courts and tribunals have considered much of the Convention to reflect customary international law binding on all nations of the world. All states, including China and the United States, acknowledge that the rules reflected in UNCLOS apply to their maritime activities; the US is bound as a matter of customary international law, if not by the Convention itself.

    Quite simply: even if the United States has not joined UNCLOS, it abides by the laws embodied by the Convention as Universal standards.

    Moreover, the US has helped to enforce UNCLOS/international law for the past 70 years in (South East) Asia by establishing itself as a military/security presence in the region. China apologists may try to obfuscate the US government’s position on UNCLOS but the US military is unambiguous on freedom of navigation. The US Department of Defence objectives with regards to the US Freedom of Navigation Program clearly specify the need to preserve all of the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed in international law (and UNCLOS) to all states.

    Historically, that presence has served to maintain stability in the international order; a status quo which has been beneficial — indeed, lucrative — for countries in the region. It has allowed for maritime trade to flourish and for Asia to prosper economically under the security afforded by the US military.

    It is ludicrous to state that the US lacks the moral authority to challenge China over its incursions in the South China Sea. The sovereign states of the world each have an interest in maintaining international peace and security on our oceans, preserving the freedom of navigation, conserving and utilizing the living resources of the sea in an optimum manner, and protecting the marine environment. The record shows that the US has served to ensure that the overarching interests of world community are accommodated quite admirably for decades.

    1. @JohnnySaint, I made those assertions on the US on the basis of the specific examples exhibited in the Diplomat article I cited.

      This is not, of course, to diminish the status of US as the most powerful upholder of the ideals of democracy and freedom on the planet. Imperfect as the effecting of that American aspiration and sense of global responsibility may be, there is no disputing that the system of government and the foundation of principles upon which American society is built serve as the most transparent means for the fairest judgments and decisions to emerge out of a vast variety of points of view.

      That said, there is much to be said about an America that led the world to a pointless war in Iraq — a tragic project that is but one of many other “strategic” contributions to a long-overarching need to maintain a certain world order needed to assure its people a steady supply of cheap fuel, access to as large a landscape of markets as possible to keep its corporate citizens happy, and an economy buzzing “healthily” enough to postpone an inevitable implosion under the weight of an ever-growing budget deficit.

      1. That said, there is much to be said about an America that led the world to a pointless war in Iraq — a tragic project that is but one of many other “strategic” contributions to a long-overarching need to maintain a certain world order needed to assure its people a steady supply of cheap fuel, access to as large a landscape of markets as possible to keep its corporate citizens happy, and an economy buzzing “healthily” enough to postpone an inevitable implosion under the weight of an ever-growing budget deficit.

        It is lamentable that the United States has launched a series of open-ended military conflicts against (non-state) actors, who were never an existential threat to America’s existence, without any coherent mission. Worse, their efforts to ‘enhance security’ by maintaining an ‘enduring’ military presence in some of the world’s most volatile regions have resulted in more enemies with less security. Not only for the US but also for its allies, including the Philippines.

        America makes ambitious commitments without having a clue as to exactly what the US government is doing or should be doing in these places where they intervene, or where such actions will lead. That is why 15 years later, the US is still in Afghanistan, still fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida, when they were supposed to have been annihilated in 2001. These failed military adventures are in no small part responsible for giving rise to the Islamic State.

        Tragic? Of course. An indefinite entanglement is what you can expect to happen when governments act without foresight or planning, and blinded by hubris. That’s what happens when the powers that be are ignorant of the situation they are going into, when they have no idea what the consequences would be. It’s a LACK OF STRATEGY that is the cause. NOT the desire to acquire or extract resources; especially if one has an abundant supply (as North America does with regards to petroleum).

        1. @ saint,IT IS A DELIBERATE ACT OF THE USA GOVERNMENT TO KEEP THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX PROFITS ROLLING IN, NOT WHAT YOU THINK….Lack of strategy, LOL !!! It is the EXACT strategy, to keep the conflict going as long as possible. Even to the point of creating imaginary enemies I.E. ‘The War on Terror’, WTF ?


        2. @ Saint, Reading the responses to Benigno here, it is obvious you THINK you know what the USA is up to…..but the reality is that you have no clue.
          The paragraph ‘it is predicated on…’ proves it, OMG, you should hear yourself, its actually really funny,ROFLMAO.

        3. To paraphrase the 19th century British Prime Minister…

          How much easier it is to troll than to be correct.

          Inevitably, the willfully ignorant drag out convoluted conspiracy theories and oversimplified movie clichés in place of critical analysis.

          Here’s the reasoning they use. If you want to find out what’s really happening in politics and government, follow the money. When it comes to national security, civic concerns conflict with the financial self-interest of the various agencies and private companies working on counter-terrorism, homeland security, and intelligence. Therefore, they conclude, corporate cronies in the military-industrial complex use the spectre of threats to national security to run up fat contracts with opaque multi-billion dollar operating budgets.

          The reality is that it is NOT a matter of money.

          In the wake of 9/11, the United States created a massive security infrastructure that is extremely opaque and inefficient, it’s impossible to determine its effectiveness.

          Consider the following examples:

          There are 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 US cities, tracking the flow of money to and from terrorist networks. This just can’t be the most effective way to accomplish the mission.

          Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year. That volume so large, many are routinely ignored.

          Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. This then is the problem: the amount of overlap and inevitable turf battles that occur when multiple organisations — both private and government — all strive to prove their relevance to protect their self-interest (read ‘budget’).

          This is not conjecture. It demonstrates first and foremost a lack of focus and ultimately, a lack of strategy.

      2. Consider this…

        Cheap, abundant fuel/energy (likely derived from fossil fuels) is one of the reasons extreme poverty has dropped to below 10 percent of the world’s population.

        The Industrial Revolution allowed humans to transition away from relying on the energy of their own muscles to satisfy their needs. To-day, electrical power is so widespread, few of us can conceive of a world without it. Over the last two centuries, cheap energy fueled (pun intended) economic growth in a capitalist free market that in turn allowed humans to eradicate disease, improve life expectancy and break out of ignorance.

        The human experience suggests that economic growth is the surest and most lasting solution to poverty. And any ballooning budget deficit.

        1. That assumes, of course, that either (1) there is no limit to growth or (2) the growth of the deficit will stop at some point in the future.

          Or a third one: that economic growth will outpace ballooning of the deficit over a sustained period.

        2. In theory, there really is NO limit to ‘growth.’ Even in real life, innovations constantly, and spontaneously, occur. These add value to the economy and output capacity is incrementally added upon by new production methods and increasing cost efficiency given the available technology.

          A ‘deficit’ is caused by two factors: high government expenditures and a failure to collect tax revenue.

          If the economy is expanding, increased tax receipts and other inflows of government income will reduce or eliminate government deficits (even one as staggeringly large as the US budget deficit) and may lead to government surpluses.

          If there is a practical ‘limit,’ I imagine it’s when, in societies where growth has expanded there are powerful rulers and other elements who either appropriated the innovations for themselves or banned the activity altogether because it threatened their own positions. My chief concern is that the rich will stifle the innovations which make society vibrant and kill off economic growth.

        3. The big assumption there is that a solution to dependence on fossil fuels and/or to mitigating the impact of that dependence on global climate can be found. If not, then both present physical limits to growth that solutions hinged upon the current monetary system cannot overcome. The only other solution is to effect a hard ceiling on population growth and consumption.

          The other problem with dependence on innovation to sustain growth is that this highlights the whole problem with the world today — that there are societies , such as that of the Philippines — that are simply not culturally or socially equipped to innovate their way out of misery. The gulf between societies that have an aptitude for innovating or absorbing innovation and those that are hopelessly doomed to a future of wretched ignoramity is getting wider by the year.

      3. Re “lack of strategy”, I can’t disagree with that one. But it is probably more a shortfall than an abject lack.

        Acquisition of resources and the sustained securing of a long-term supply is a strategic imperative that involves more variables than could be modelled in even the most sophisticated plans or projections at the moment. So the US, as with all other societies, is a victim of its own unbridled hubris the outcome of which is the enduring impacts of all the unintended consequences resulting from imperfect plans.

        Like all of those imperfect and incomplete plans, America’s presumption to style itself as a beacon of justice falls short of its practice, particularly when practice comes in conflict with national interests.

        1. That is predicated on the assumption that the ‘acquisition of resources’ IS the primary motivator for the US starting all these dumb wars in the Middle East to begin with. I’m not convinced it is.

          Practicality dictates against it.

          From a logical point of view, TRADE with other countries makes more sense. I’m not implying that trade will absolutely prevent war; World War II was fought by nations who were previously trading partners, after all. But it does eliminate a major cause of one: conquest to secure goods. If people can buy things from each other, they have less need to maintain armies to forcibly extract them. A protracted state of conflict reduces the chance for economic activity. It diminishes the value of any resource acquired (especially if the same goods/services can be purchased elsewhere). It destroys the viability of the market. By all measures, material gain is not a viable reason for open-ended war. You are more likely to lose money on the investment. If this were the main reason for US policy in the Middle East, they would have given up a long time ago.

          And yet, the US continues to make history as the only country to have done so much fighting, in so many countries they are not even officially at war with. It’s unprecedented.

          That militarisation of US policy makes more sense if seen in the light of politicians utterly convinced of the righteousness of their visions of ‘nation building’ and the invincibility of their armed forces. That’s how the US stormed into Iraq, and using ‘shock and awe,’ won a swift military victory. Which the US government quickly allowed to degenerate into a brutal civil war.

          At the time, the decision seemed sensible. A majority of the American public supported it. As it turned out, their leaders were so ignorant of Iraq that they had no idea what the effects would be intended or otherwise. The resulting chaos caused huge numbers of Iraqis to turn against the US and spawn an insurgency that would kill thousands of American soldiers.

          To date, neither side of the American political spectrum has put forward an idea of what victory would look like, much less what the financial cost will be, or what level of collateral damage in countries the US is not at war with will be deemed acceptable. That is the epitome of a ‘lack of strategy.’

        2. And that is what is remarkable about the US. In being at the cutting edge of human cognitive capability (being the source of a disproportionately large bulk of humanity’s innovation and capital) they are also staring over the edge of humanity’s collective intellectual ability to safely navigate itself out of an unprecedented situation.

          It is only now that humanity holds an heretofore unparalleled ability to populate and degrade the planet with short-term impunity with no foreseeable limit to our species’ planetary-scale destructiveness.

          In the past, collapse of civilisation under the weight of population, economic, and natural pressure was always localised. Today with everything globally interrelated and interdependent, collapse at a planetary scale could be in the horizon depending on the course humans choose to take.

          America being the arguable leader of our species, owing to its wealth and power, has put itself in that unenviable position of bearing the weight of much of that responsibility. So far it is falling short of the task at hand.

    1. Our only real chance is to stay humble and plead for mercy. This is like a Manny Pacquiao vs. iron Mike Tyson match.

      Squatter o ASG hindi mapaalis ng gobyerno sa sariling lupa, China (on a piece of rock in the middle of nowhere) pa?

      You don’t demand respect, you earn it. Show me a Philippine nuclear submarine with missile launch capability and maybe we can start talking.

      1. Why not ask Digong about that? If I remember, he said jets are good only for airshows.

        And FYI, the Navy has plans to get submarines in 2020. It all falls on Digong if he wants to support the modernization, or gutter it to please his leftist friends.

        1. Why buy subs when you can make them locally? The principle is easy – just the application of Archimedes’ principle using Pistons to change the volume of water displaced. Use Diesel engines for now and torpedoes as main ammo.

          Let’s call our new submarine series “Dugong” class, in honor of Digong.

          Replace jets with SAMs (surface to air missiles) and drones since we only want to play defense (not offense). We should be able to knock down anything within a 200 nautical mile distance from our shores.

          Launch satellites for military use. Targets should be obliterated using without need of human pilots. Drones are easy to make – just import basic parts from China.

          Programming can be done by Pinoys. Give them as thesis/science projects for students – make the most of free labor in schools. Dami nating IT graduate nakatunganga lang sa bahay- naghihintay lang ng padala ni OFW nama.

        2. @zaxx

          Building subs isn’t as easy as you think.

          We don’t have the facilities, technology, and funds to build military subs locally. That’s why we have to buy proven designs from other countries. The government can secure tech transfers if they want to support the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) Program.

  7. “Everything is going to be fine.”

    I hate it when Failipinos say that, people who have absolutely no idea of what’s coming next. They turn you into an idiot for even asking.”

  8. What did the mouse say to the elephant? “You better GET the Puk OUT NOW or ELSE!…. Grrrrrr!!! @#$%&¥!!!!”

    Elephant’s answer (yawning): “or else what?”

  9. There was a time before World War II, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, went to sign “peace treaty” with Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler of Germany. The ‘peace treaty” was signed in a piece of document.

    British PM Chamberlain showed the signed document to the public…and called it: “Peace in our times”…

    When Hitler’s aide , asked him why he signed the document. He told his aide: “he just signed a piece of paper…”

    The next thing , Hitler did, after signing the document was: invade the whole , Czechoslovakia; invade Poland; invade other European countries…until he invaded the Soviet Union; which he had a “Peace treaty” with Josef Stalin.

    That PCA decision is nothing but a piece of paper. It is as useless, as the document that Nazi’s Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, signed as “peace in our times” document with British PM Chamberlain…Filipinos and the Aquino’s YellowTards, are rejoicing and promoting it as an accomplishment…it is a Joke !

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