Thursday, January 24, 2013


On January 22, the Philippine government initiated arbitral proceedings against China under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Art 287 and Annex VII) "to clearly establish the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines over its maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea". The act was said to be "in furtherance of friendly relations with China" and the " seek a peaceful and durable resolution of the dispute..."

I believe the move shows the sincerity of the Philippines' desire to find a peaceful and just solution to at least some aspects of the disputes so that both countries can try to move forward and focus on more constructive (e.g. economic, business, people to people) aspects of their relations. Judging by the sharp deterioration in ties of the last 2-3 years and peering into a very uncertain future, there is very little possibility for successful bilateral negotiations as China has all along preferred. For both countries, apparently irreconcilable positions, complex domestic political considerations, and trends in the geopolitical and security environment have made it difficult to demonstrate the good will needed for negotiations to succeed; third party arbitration and what we expect shall be a neutral and objective appraisal of the arguments and evidence at least offer a ray of hope. I hope China and other countries will see the Philippine move in this light.

If this move prospers, at the end of what may be a long process, the outcome may not be the solution that both parties want, but we only need an outcome both can respect. Both countries after all want peace and stability as a requisite to their continued development. The Chinese and the Filipino people have lived peacefully as neighbors for millenia, and the current leadership of both states have the responsibility to ensure it stays that way.

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