HOWIE SEE IT: Rightfully Ours

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By Atty. Howie Calleja
(Last of 2 parts)

In response to all the comments and to those who went to the extent of deriding me about my article last week, I thought it best to reply and state for the record that it is unfortunate that more than defending the statements of the President they have unknowingly sided with China and puppet their claim that the arbitral award is a mere scrap of paper. I may not be the President of the Philippines but as a Filipino, I will always be on the side of what is best for the Philippines and the Filipino people and never will I lapdog the stand and interest of China.

Read previous column:

In understanding our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea one has to realise that it is governed by both domestic and international law.

Clearly stated in our constitution under Article XII (National Economy and Patrimony) Section II, that “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens”. As such it is the constitutional mandate of our President to defend our sovereign rights over our EEZ regardless of what he perceives to be ingratitude to his Chinese benefactors.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS (adopted in 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica and entered into force in November 16, 1994) to which both the Philippines and China are state signatories is the currently prevailing law of the seas and binding to both The Philippines and China. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in July 2016 issued an award overwhelmingly in favour of The Philippines and declared among others the ff;

  1. China’s 9 dash line and china’s historical claim over the West Philippines Sea has no legal basis in International Law and inconsistent with the UNCLOS
  2. It sustained the claim of the Philippines over exclusive rights to its 200 nautical mile EEZ in the West Philippine Sea
  3. It made is clear that China’s continued reclamation in the area is in violation of Philippine sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea

On the issue of sovereign rights and sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea let it be clear that the arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction over sovereign rights and can only pass judgment over sovereignty upon submission of both parties to the case which China denied us by not participating in the proceedings. Nonetheless it is undisputed that the Philippines has sovereignty over its territorial sea (12 nautical miles ) and exclusive jurisdiction over its EEZ (200 nautical miles). And by exclusive jurisdiction it means only the Philippines has exclusive right use its natural and marine resources.

Let me emphasize that the validity arbitral award is not diminished by China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings. China’s refusal to participate does not impair the proceedings nor does it have any bearing on the validity of the award. It is China’s choice whether to participate or not but it has no choice on its enforceability because as state signatory to UNCLOS Treaty it is duty bound to comply with the award.

It is likewise important to emphasise that the arbitral award has also been recognized by the international community except of course China. The support and recognition of the international community is of paramount importance because should China continue its aggressive action and disregard the arbitral ruling it runs the risk of losing its international prestige and credibility.

In the context of these overwhelming legal and moral justification ( both domestic and international) to assert our right is only but proper, only a political coward and traitor would hide behind false diplomacy. One thing is clear, whoever dismisses the arbitral award as a piece of paper is not working for the best interest of the country and is not fit to call himself a Filipino much less lead the Filipino people. Our claim to the West Philippine Sea is rightfully ours, Let’s fight for it!