OKAY, you had your day in court, now let's sit down and talk.
Somehow, that's how I imagined the Chinese Government's reaction to the United Nations (UN) tribunal's ruling that China “had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by (a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum explorations, (b) constructing artificial islands, and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.”
China has always considered bilateral talks with claimants the only way to address the South China Sea disputes.
So it was no surprise that China would not accept the jurisdiction of the panel, referring to the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.
“China solemnly declares that the award is null and void and has no binding force. China neither accepts nor recognizes it,” according to the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
So I don't mean to put a damper on the “Filipinos who jumped for joy, wept, embraced each other and waved Philippine flags after news of the sweeping victory broke out.”
First of all, it might have been a victory, but only on paper. And it was far from “sweeping.”
I takes two to tango and China has not been in the mood to dance since the Philippines initiated arbitration without its consent three years ago.
China was quick to point out that the tribunal has no power to enforce its decision. And that's the crux of the matter.
Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, who helped oversee the filing of the case, can boast all he wants that the ruling underscored “our collective belief that right is might and that international law is the great equalizer among states.”
But tell that to the government of Nicaragua. The US, in a dispute with the Central American country three decades ago, ignored a decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after the Court rejected its claim that the Court lacked jurisdiction.
The ICJ awarded reparations to Nicaragua after it ruled that the US had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government (Sandinistas) and by mining Nicaragua's harbors. Not only did the US refuse to participate in the proceedings after the Court rejected its argument that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, it later blocked enforcement of the judgment by the UN Security Council, preventing Nicaragua from obtaining any actual compensation.
And to those who might want to hide behind the US's skirts when confronting China's dismissal of the panel's decision, the US never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos).
So it's still not “right is might” but “might makes right.”
And even though I agree entirely with the tribunal's ruling, the Philippines cannot pretend to be on equal footing with our giant neighbor. So enough with the braggadocio. Talk.