IN THE country today some sectors of the population, especially those who believe they are in the better position to deal with the various gigantic problems affecting governance, there is so much debate as to what is best to be done and how things should have been done.
Two of the major issues now being debated are how the government is responding to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, and the issue on how the government is dealing with the long-standing overlapping claims of countries over the so-called West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea and some islands thereat.
While both issues are of major significance to the country and our people, the latter issue, we believe, may have a lasting impact on the Philippines as a country since a mishandling of the same could affect the future of the nation as a sovereign state.
The problem as we see it though is that those involved in the verbal, as well as written tussle, are not totally presenting the details of the issue that they are debating on.
We all know that a winner or the winners in a debate is not declared or decided upon by the protagonists themselves. They have to convince their audience, listeners or readers that their arguments fit well in the parameters provided by the issue at hand.
So, while the Filipinos know the main subject being debated on is the handling by the present administration of our claim of rights over the sea and islands and all resources within the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as ruled by the International Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations, the details of the ruling had not been fully disclosed for the public’s scrutiny.
Yes, why has not the administration and those who alleged that the former is not doing anything to impose a ruling which, according to the latter group was won by them for the Philippines, attempted or caused the publication in full of the ruling granted by the International Arbitral Tribunal. Isn’t it one way for both groups to provide the discerning public the opportunity to knowledgeably select which side they will take or believe in?
Somehow, the situation now is that both the government and the other party are making the legitimacy of their arguments but at the same time keeping the Filipino people blind to the details of the issue. Frankly, we believe that it would be much helpful for everyone to understand the totality of the issue on our “win” in the arbitral tribunal if they can have the ruling published for the people to know and conclude for themselves which group is telling the truth thus deserving of the people’s support.
And by the way, how significant is the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal? From the researches we painstakingly made just to be guided properly on our understanding of the positions of both the debating groups – that of the administration and of the group of Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario – we learned that the Permanent Court of Arbitration is one of the specialized agencies under one of the major organs of the United Nations.
Its duties deal with the legal problem of the UN even as it helps in the settlement of disputes among or between member countries brought before the body for arbitration. These disputes have concerned matters related to ownership of border territories as well as fishing rights in the seas covered by the area.
Also, under the UN charter, no nation or country can be forced to bring its disputes before the tribunal. Moreover, nations that submit their disputes for resolution by the Tribunal must agree to accept its decision.
In the case of the Philippines’ dispute with China on the extent of our territory and fishing rights in the West Philippine Sea, it is clear that China did not agree to the bringing of the case for arbitration by the Arbitral Tribunal.
In other words, it was only the Philippines that insisted on getting a ruling from the Tribunal and China which is the other party to the dispute did not participate in the arbitration.
Thus, based on the charter of the UN and the policies supposed to be the parameters of the Arbitral Tribunal in accepting cases submitted for its ruling, there was already apparent omission. Yes, how could the tribunal have proceeded with the arbitration when China did not agree to participate in the proceeding?
And it was their basis in not recognizing the arbitration as well as not accepting the Tribunal’s ruling. Further, the UN Charter provides that if one nation refuses to accept the Tribunal’s ruling, it cannot take direct action against the concerned country or its government.
Also, the members of the Arbitral Tribunal are not sitting as judges or justices but as arbitrators. Therefore, their success in arbitrating a dispute depends on the parties or group of parties, agreeing to have their dispute arbitrated by the Tribunal.
In the same UN Charter, it is clear that no individual nation has the power to punish other nations. Neither the Tribunal has the power to impose any or all awards or sanctions to the country that is found to have aggrieved the other country. If for example the aggrieved country in a dispute seeks assistance from the UN Security Council and the latter comes up with a resolution authorizing a UN-backed action against a violating country, then there is a bigger risk of starting a war among nations.
Thus, the best option adopted by most nations that have resorted to arbitration is to settle the issue in a diplomatic manner, especially when the aggrieved country is weak compared to the other party in the dispute.
In the case of the Philippines’ awards by the Tribunal of having exclusive rights over territories within the so-called EEZ, the administration, we assume, has adopted what it may have considered the safest tact – diplomacy — instead of forcing the issue on China which is very much stronger militarily and economically.
But it is apparent that this is not the view of the group who claimed to have given the Philippines the “win” from the International Arbitral Tribunal. They want a collective action by the UN to force China to accept the ruling of the Tribunal.
But will the UN accede knowing that China is a leading member of the organization? Will there be no collective move to have the Philippines forcibly get what the Carpio group is insisting as a rightful award given to the country too much of a risk to global peace?
Clearly, the present administration sees it as not a practical action. Thus, time and again, it is insisting on opting for the diplomatic strategy.
But for the public to be educated on what could ignite a much deadlier conflict if, as claimed by the Carpio and Del Rosario group more beneficial for the country, let the details of the Arbitral Tribunal awards be published in full in the country’s major newspaper. At least the Filipinos will know where the consequences of their position on the issue come from.
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