By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
I find it appalling and humorous to read an article stating China has nominated one of its diplomats to fill in one of the vacant judges’ seats at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
Yep, the same Asian giant that made expansive claims of several islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and other parts of the South China Sea (SCS) with island-building despite competing assertions from Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and, of course, the Philippines.
It is the same bully that, with its naval and patrols and merchant ships, either shooed our fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds or sank their boats.
Now, this. China’s gall of endorsing Jielong Duan, currently its ambassador to Hungary, is crucial in this intergovernmental organization established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The irony is that China is endorsing a candidate to sit as an ITLOS judge when it has never recognized the historic arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines in a case brought to UNCLOS? Simply put, why join a court whose decision you don’t respect?
No one has said it better than United States Department Assistant Secretary for East Asia David Stilwell: China’s nomination of Jielong for ITLOS was like “hiring an arsonist to run the Fire Department”.
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On July 12, 2016, the international tribunal ruled that the Philippines has the exclusive sovereign rights over the WPS, and China’s claim of WPS territories being covered by its nine-dash line had no basis in international law.
China snubbed the case and never participated in the arbitration that lasted for months.
As expected, China refused to recognize the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that was brushed aside by its best friend, President Duterte.
Now, four years have passed, China remains steadfast in its claims in the WPS.
While the world stands still, reeling from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, China continues its reclamation activities in our territories.
As the Philippines fails to defend the arbitral ruling and while President Duterte condones anything that Beijing does, China will go on insulting the ITLOS and the Philippines.
Seemingly, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin doesn’t sing the same tune. He said the arbitral ruling is “non-negotiable” for the Philippines, and that the government is ready to stand by its implementation “without any possibility of compromise or change”.
So, ano na nga ba?
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