(This post has published on Yahoo! Voices.)
Had China and the Philippines based their ongoing dispute on security and threat, economic dimension, political and strategic military advancement, and territorial expansion rather than on peace and security, commitment to mutual treaties and international laws, and plain respect, then, a countdown to another Falklands War must be ticking!
Territorial dispute has been an old trick of imperialism since time of greed unknown to man. History of the worlds never told a lie. War of aggression always has a price, and the price of waging war is expensive, too expensive for the Philippines to buy for it.
On the verge of the ongoing territorial conflict, where China and the Philippines are staunch in claiming the “piece of rock” now, what is at stake?
There maybe only three issues underlying the standoff: firstly, the China’s interest, secondly, the America’s interest, and thirdly, the Philippines’ sovereignty.
Why in all disputes either on territory, arm or military, or even on racism America has its unique or strategic presence? History provokes that it is because of America’s interest to remain the sole superpower over terrestrial, fluvial, and aerial domains on earth, where she can exercise control to the fullest. America’s interventions in Gulf War, in Arab worlds, in Europe and in Latin countries, and of course in the Philippines (the only either a satrapy of America or a puppet for the imperialist in Asia’s empire) are “least” humble indications of America’s character as imperialist.
However, this America’s humble character has brought either good or bad, but evidently advantageous to her interest. If this is so, then still America is the benefactor of China-Philippines territorial dispute backwash.
ON CHINA’S CLAIM
Scarborough Shoal (as called Huangyan Island in China), a triangular-shaped atoll with a circumference of 46km, has been regarded as part of the Zhongsha Islands in China since 1935. China has been constantly emphasizing, asserting this fact when Scarborough Shoal became subject of dispute among the claiming parties. Hence, China claimed Scarborough Shoal and most islands in South China Sea based on historical ownership.
ON PHILIPPINES’ CLAIM
Scarborough Shoal (as called Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines) is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales, and the government of the Philippines claimed it as a part of the Municipality of Masinloc, Zambales province. Furthermore, the Philippines claimed it based on Philippine sovereignty under Public International Law and on Philippine sovereign rights under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
THE PILLARS OF CLAIM
History recalls that Scarborough Shoal was named after the capsized tea-trade ship, Scarborough. Dispute between China and the Philippines over it has first started on April 30, 1997 when the Filipino naval ships prevented the Chinese boats from approaching the shoal. This historic event prompted China to express their strong protest against this Philippines’ attempt.
Meanwhile, the latest scuffle between the same sovereign states on the same subject of dispute erupted on April 10, 2012.
China has been adamant in claiming over Scarborough Shoal even as early as 1935, in fact, China listed the Scarborough Shoal as part of the Zhongsha Islands.
China, again, protested against the Philippines when the latter claimed a sovereignty over some of the islands in South China Sea in 1956 for geographical basis. Ergo, Philippines has made their claims over islands in South China Sea based on territorial proximity around Philippine archipelago.
Considering that China was being bullied by the Philippine government based on the latter 1956 claim, it could be possible that this has triggered China to promulgate its 1958 Declaration on the Territorial Sea that recognized the breadth of the territorial sea of China. This declaration covered the Zongsha islands, where Scarborough Shoal was a part of these islands. Moreover, the 1992 Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone reaffirmed the sovereignty of China over the Zongsha Islands.
On the other hand, the Philippines is [over]confident in claiming over Scarborough Shoal primarily based on UNCLOS provisions and on the Philippine Constitution.
A QUICK REVIEW ON CHINA AND THE PHILIPPINES AT UNCLOS
UNCLOS codifies a comprehensive governance of law and order in oceans and seas in the entire globe. Its salient tasks enforce coastal and archipelagic states to exercise sovereignty over their territorial sea, establish an exclusive economic zones or EEZs, subject parties to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in cases of disputes, and among others.
The Philippines signed the UNCLOS on December 10, 1982 and ratified it on May 8, 1984 with reservations. China, on the other hand, ratified the UNCLOS on June 7, 1996 also with reservations obviously pertaining to territorial sovereignty and made clear its opposition to Section 2 of Part XV of the UNCLOS with respect to all categories of disputes.
China has sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal based on its historical claim. Its control over it is evident in its proclamations and constant assertion.
On the contrary, the Philippines has no basis to claim the Scarborough Shoal on the principle of acquiring a territory that no one has been claiming for (terra nullius), if and only if the Philippines asserts its claim based on public international law relating modalities of acquisition. As far as independence is concerned, while the Philippines had gained its [2nd] independence (this time from America) in 1946, China had already claimed the Shoal and asserted its sovereignty over it through a Declaration as early as 1935 claiming over Zongsha islands (where Scarborough Shoal is a part), and in 1947 the Shoal was given a name to Minzhu Jiao. Ergo, the Philippines can not suffice its claim based on the principle of terra nullius. It can also be deduced that the Philippines failed to consider historical basis and pertinent historical documents on territorial claim when drawing out territorial border. so that future conflicts like this can be prevented — I call this kind of diplomatic initiative, RESPECT.
Furthermore, the 1978 map published by the Philippine National Mapping and Resource Information Authority did not include Scarborough Shoal as part of Philippine territorial sea. Moreover, the Philippines has already expressed its claim over the islands in South China Sea and that was limited only to the Kalayaan islands based on Presidential Decree No. 1596. Ergo, the Philippine’s claim over Scarborough Shoal is virtually inconsistent unless otherwise P.D. No. 1596 was superseded .
While the Philippines has been willing to settle down the dispute through the international tribunal so far, as far as provisions in UNCLOS is concerned, China closed its door for any international interventions. This China’s response should not be undermined, misinterpreted, or misunderstood. For it only shows that China is firm and impossible to give up Scarborough Shoal and is very clear on this issue living by its historic claim, and that the Philippines should think twice in pursuing any moves beyond diplomacy.
But up to what extent can diplomacy go? Or what will happen if all diplomatic options fail? Will history repeat itself? Which of these, the Falklands War or the Mischief Reef settled case?
Now, circumventing the whole issue based on historical perspective and on the present international treaty, especially on UNCLOS, China-Philippines dispute is unwise, unlikely, and incompetent to settle it down through UNCLOS provisions because of the following issues that can not be set aside:
- While UNCLOS has provided the sovereign state a basis for a claim to a 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone or EEZ to an island, the disputed Scarborough Shoal is categorically NOT an island, ergo, dispute over the Shoal is either strictly or considerably different and thus, it can not be resolved through UNCLOS.
- China’s interest to reign over Asia and the Pacific can not be set aside; the same way to the Philippines however as a “little sister”, or an “Asian satrapy” of America.
- Both the Philippines and China had signified their reservations upon its ratification of UNCLOS.
In other words, both signatories-disputing parties have expressed reservations upon subscribing to the UNCLOS. Then, what makes sense in bringing up the issue to the international tribunal and resolving it based on UNCLOS when both the disputing parties-signatories have conditions hostile to the UNCLOS provisions?
Neither diplomacy, nor waging war against each other is the best option to generate win-win solution at this moment in time, but right timing to diplomatic options would be the last resort.
Meanwhile, the Philippines should come to know that despite America’s allegiance to the Mutual Defense Treaty and her promises, still America will position herself toward achieving her own interest at whatever cost as long as America’s interest will be preserved.
It maybe contentious that proximity claim must not supersede historical claim. However, so be it; that is the pain history taught us good values such as RESPECT. When China’s claim over Scarborough Shoal has been recognized so long before the birth of UNCLOS and other international laws and independence of the other claiming sovereign state, the Philippines, then why the latter, still persistent in claiming it when in fact both have expressed reservations before such international treaty? Do framers of UNCLOS committed a biased shortcoming? Or are they (China-Philippines) guilty of territorial greed?
One way or another, doubts cast a black hole to this China-Philippines dispute pointing out the role of America in the present arena of territorial conflict in Asian empire. Although America has not yet ratified the UNCLOS, her role in either diplomacy or military support to the Philippines is malignant to China’s common sense yet dubious in some ways.
When history pointed out America’s favor to historical basis of Great Britain over proximity claim of Argentina to Falkland Islands, the 1982 Falklands War broke out. Then, logically, to prevent war, upholding historical claim maybe the least to consider or maybe the best to exercise. But, can America afford to do nothing with Scarborough Shoal dispute seeing China is expanding? Well, another Falklands War in Asia is looming should the Philippines remains either a satrapy of America or a puppet for her interest. Then, the Philippines will be torn between the two boulders!
Strategically, the best option left for the Philippines is “right timing” for any diplomatic moves. Not today, while the iron is still hot; not tomorrow when pride and sovereignty will be at stake. But as of this moment, show respect and listen to the giant’s historical claim drama. Listening or imbibing respect is not a form of being bullied, neither is it a body language of cowardice, nor is it a mechanism of being at a loss in the battle the we, actually, have never been. Only fools rush in!
(This post has published on Yahoo! Voices.)
- Zou, Keyuan. Law of the Sea in East Asia: Issues and Prospects. Routledge: 2005.
- Philippine Position on Scarborough Shoal and the Waters Within Its Vicinity. Philippine Official Gazette , April 18, 2012.
- 1992 Law of the People’s Republic of China on Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone by lehmanlaw.com
- Presidential Decree No. 1596 by chanrobles.com
- Declarations and Statements by un.org
Filed under: Geography and Landmarks, Opinion and Social Issues, Politics and Government Tagged: | China, China-Philippines dispute, Falklands War, Scarborough Shoal, territorial dispute, territorial dispute under UNCLOS, UNCLOS