HOWIE SEE IT: Just a piece of paper

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By Atty. Howie Calleja
(First of 2 Parts)

You said last night to ask any lawyer if your statements were false on the West Philippine Sea issue; and you will resign. I am Attorney Howard M. Calleja a law professor at the Ateneo De Manila Law school and at the De La Salle College of Law. I am a licensed lawyer both in the Philippines and in New York, USA. I am a graduate of the Ateneo law school and also hold a certificate in International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law, The Hague Netherlands; and a Master of laws in International Law from Duke University North Carolina USA; and this is my answer Mr. President ….

An international court’s decision is much more than just a piece of paper. It is actually based on the collective commitment that countries enter into stipulating that they will honor, protect and abide by a certain conduct that is respected among the international community. Thus, the arbitral tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) that resolved the case in favor of the Philippines against China’s claims in the South China Sea invalidatig Beijing’s “historic rights” claim to nearly the entire waterway is of great significance to our country’s sovereign rights in the eyes of the international community. The significance is not diminished even with your governments refusal to implement the award properly citing the lack of formal enforcement mechanism and the great power imbalance between China and the Philippines .

To prove Mr President that power imbalance is not a hindrance for smaller nations to overcome powerful nations let me call your attention to the case of Artic Sunrise. On 18 September 2013, using the vessel Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace activists tried to access the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, which was operating within the Russian Federation‟s exclusive economic zone in the Pechora Sea between the Russian mainland and Novaya Zemlya. The case was brought to UNCLOS and a resolution passed finding Russia in violation of various provisions and favouring the position of The Netherlands. Russia then refused the abide by the award and despite tensions between the two sovereign states, the intervention of the international community vis-à-vis the arbitration rendered paved the way for the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of the Netherlands to come to the full and final settlement of any and all mutual claims and led to the following crucial agreements in relation to the EEZ: (1) In exercising the freedom of navigation in the EEZ, a flag State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of a coastal State, including its sovereign rights over its natural resources and with respect to artificial installations in the EEZ or on the continental shelf, and (2) In exercising its rights and performing its duties in the EEZ, a coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of a flag State with respect to vessels flying its flag and sailing in the EEZ and the respective freedoms, including the freedom of navigation.

We also have the example of Vietnam and Indonesia that repeatedly condemn the incursions of Chinese vessels in their EEZ and while incursions happen there is no war or nuclear conflict between these conflicting states. In addition Indonesia has even successfully navigated advantageous trade and economic agreements with China. Showing that a nations principled and consistent stand coupled with political will is key to a winning a peaceful solution against a super power like China.

For You, Mr. President to say that the arbitral award is just a trash of paper simply plays right into the Chinese playbook; and an outright betrayal of the Filipino people. You have arrogantly played right into the hands of your Chinese benefactors. First by rattling the fear of war while stubbornly disregarding all peaceful settlement of disputes available Secondly, You have placed the arbitral award to the back burner instead of enforcing the award and now to add more insult to injury you started calling it a trash of paper. This is your Chinese playbook revealing what we saw way back in 2016 — that You are really a scam artist and a Manchurian candidate.

Sadly, while we as private citizens are vigilantly trying to protect and fight for Philippine sovereignty and our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea; Mr. President your actions and words continue to favor the Chinese rather than the Filipinos you have sworn to serve and protect.

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