Misplaced patriotism? | The Manila Times
Scrolling through the news on Monday, I came across a banner from a daily newspaper quoting President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. asking China to adhere to international law governing the South China Sea. Specifically, he was referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
The story was great as the chief executive highlighted the need to avoid tensions in the South China Sea, being one of the most important trade routes in the world – until the story tackled the issue of the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which ruled in favor of the country’s claims in the “Western Philippine Sea”.
He even said that China had rejected the arbitration award and maintained its landmark nine-dash claim.
Two things need to be clarified here: the PCA decision and the use of the term “Western Philippine Sea”.
First, let’s discuss the use of the term “Western Philippine Sea”.
It was the administration of the late Noynoy Aquino 3rd who first used the term “Western Philippine Sea” in 2011 which his advisers say symbolizes our disagreement with China’s claim to sovereignty over the whole of the South China Sea.
That same year, Akbayan Representative Walden Bello introduced a bill in Congress urging the government to review the process of renaming the South China Sea to the Western Philippine Sea. This led President Aquino to issue Administrative Order 29 naming “The Western Philippine Sea of the Republic of the Philippines, and for other purposes” on September 5, 2012.
Unfortunately, to date, we are the only ones using the term “Western Philippine Sea” as it has not been recognized by the international community. In fact, other claimants in the disputed territory still use the term “South China Sea” because it has been the internationally recognized name for the area since time immemorial. Even the intent – “to symbolize disagreement with China’s claim to sovereignty…” betrays the adventurous tendencies of the former administration. Didn’t he send our obsolete warships to the disputed islands as if he were instigating war?
If the intention is really to assert our claim to the territory, why then, why not also rename the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern Philippine Sea to emphasize our claim to the rise of Benham?
As for the PCA’s decision, it’s just a myth that we emerged victorious from its 2016 decision.
First, the PCA is not a UN body but a mere institution renting an office in The Hague. Thus, any decision her office makes will not be binding because she cannot compel the UN to enforce her decision.
Of course, China would reject its decision because the PCA has no legal basis to stand on. We do not even know in what capacity he conducts the arbitration if he has no police power to enforce his decision.
So, as his friend Herman Laurel put it, “not even an inch of an island, a grain of sand, a drop of sea water, has been won by the fraudulent Hague panel headed by paid American lawyers by Filipino taxpayers to the tune of half a billion pesos of as yet unaccounted funds from the National Treasury.”
So for those who dream that we can award ownership of disputed territories based on the decision of the APC, better wake up. There was no arbitration as China refused to participate. How can we arbitrate if there is only one party present? We even have to pay China’s matching fee.
BBM was accurate. He referred to Unclos to serve as a basis for the resolution of the territorial dispute. Unfortunately, some entities – individuals, groups and even the media – still resort to the term “Western Philippine Sea”, which only we recognize, and refer to the APC decision as the basis of our ownership of the disputed territories as if to rally the people to recover these areas at all costs, in the name of patriotism.
We no longer live in medieval times and the days before when territorial disputes were settled by war. Nothing beats diplomacy. And it’s still better than war.
We can and must pursue our claims to some of the islands in the disputed areas, but not by giving our people false hope and a false sense of patriotism.