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Foreign experts: the Philippines seeking int'l arbitration is an one-man show doomed to fail

English.news.cn   2014-04-03 15:59:34

BEIJING, April. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- On March 30, the Department of Foreign Affairs of Philippines held a press conference in Manila, during which Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario made a statement that, on the same day, Philippines officially filed a case against China at an international arbitration tribunal on the Sino-Philippines dispute over the South China Sea, following the Arbitration Procedural Rules. In our interview with foreign experts, they voiced their opinions on this issue, said that Philippines' move has no legal basis and such arbitration is not legally binding or enforceable.

"Over 20 years of career as a lawyer told me that every judicial decision should be fact-based," said Patt Marillager, a prominent legal expert in Sydney, Australia. He said that Philippines' claim of sovereignty over the Huangyan Island and their lawsuit to the international tribunal against China were "without any legal basis". "Based on my research into the history of the South China Sea, Huangyan Island was discovered by China as early as 1279, and first named by China in 1935."

Philippines was a total outsider throughout this whole process, according to Marillager. When it comes to the history of Philippines, the six versions of the Constitution of the Philippines from 1899 to 1987 had no reference to Philippines' sovereignty over any one of the Nansha Islands. However, in 1997, 62 years after China's sovereignty claim to the Huangyan Island, Philippines somehow proclaimed sovereignty over the island, which is absolutely absurd.

What makes the proclamation even more absurd is that some international treaties and conventions, including the Treaty of Paris (1898), the Treaty of Washington (1900) and the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (1930), indeed express an unequivocal support for China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island and other islands. Both historical facts and laws clearly show that Huangyan Island is indisputably China's territory. Whatever excuse Philippines use, the action of declaring sovereignty over the island is actually challenging laws.

In our interview, Lin Zhicong, a professor at the Ateneo De Manila University and an expert in Chinese issues, told us that Philippines' arbitration case will not exert big impact on the overall situation of the South China Sea. First, the Chinese government's rejection of Philippines' arbitration and its refusal to participate in the case actually reduce the legitimacy of the arbitration. Second, the intention of the Philippine government in seeking arbitration is to attract extensive attention from the international community. Philippines aims to persuade other ASEAN countries involved in the South China Sea disputes to participate in the international arbitration against China so as to put pressure on China. However, Vietnam, Malaysia and some other countries have not accepted Philippines' invitation, thus making Philippines more isolated in the South China Sea issue.

Lin Zhicong also said that the foreign policy of the Aquino government is still actively cooperating with the U.S. in their rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific and encourage the U.S. military presence in Philippines, in order to help Philippines confront China's sovereignty claim to the South China Sea. Seeking arbitration is a crucial step Philippines took to assist the U.S. with their strategy. However, such move is of little help for resolving the South China Sea disputes and maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Honorary Professor Carlyle Thayer from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, said that the biggest problem the tribunal faced with is to judge whether it has jurisdiction over the dispute. Ian Storey, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (IESAS), Singapore, said that this usually takes more than one year to finish the case. Since the case involves the legitimacy of China's assertion of "nine-dash line", any tribunal cannot be enforced.

Robert Beckman, Director of the Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore (NUS), claimed that the tribunal must consider China's declaration on "historical rights" of resources in the expanse of sea delineated by "nine-dash line".

"The tribunal has long been prudent in addressing such highly political issues. The artibration tribunal may merely respond to neutral legal issues, such as defining the difference between shoals, reefs and islands, which is related to the legitimacy of 'nine-dash line' asserted by China. In fact, only with the consent of all parties concerned, the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) can arbitrate the sovereignty over the disputed reefs and islands in the South China Sea. Consequently, the tribunal will not rashly judge the legitimacy of 'nine-dash line'. Instead, it will require China to supply related evidence to clarify its legitimacy, and set aside a certain space for both sides to give their own interpretations", said Dr. Zeng Huiyi, Research Fellow at East Asian Institute, NUS.

Since the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has a short history, there was only very few legal disputes are solved by resorting to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), while more are solved through bilateral consultation. In fact, the ICJ and ITLOS have not clarified their standard or definition of "rule enforcement" and how to handle the situation when the state concerned did not apply their rules. Therefore, even the ruling is unfavorable to China, it cannot bring a decisive significance in settling South China Sea disputes since it cannot be enforced. All the signs above show that the plea filed by the Philippines doomed to fail in a one-man show.

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The Philippines' violation of international laws to end in vain

BEIJING, April. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- The Philippines took the dispute with China over the South China Sea to the international arbitration in January of 2013. On March 30, 2014, it submitted a so-called memorial to the arbitral tribunal. This erroneous practice of unilaterally trying to force arbitration has drawn the same criticism from experts of international laws and international issues. According to the experts interviewed by reporters, China stands on a solid international legal base to refuse to accept or participate in the arbitration. The Philippines should fully recognize how sensitive and complicated the South China Sea issue is, and return to the right track of resolving the dispute through consultations and negotiations, bringing no further harm to the bilateral ties between the two nations.Full story 

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Editor: Fu Peng
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