Wenceslao: Rules-based order

Candid Thoughts

An order where rules are given primacy is what President Bongbong Marcos has been espousing in our conflict with China over the ownership of much of the West Philippine Sea.

China has chosen to ignore the rules-based order in favor of its ownership claim over the area.

The sea is, of course, closer to the Philippines and this nullifies China’s claim over the territory, which is why it has refused to embrace the concept of a rules-based order in international relations. Instead, China has chosen the idea that “might is right.”

This is not surprising because it is far stronger militarily when compared to the Philippines. This is one of the reasons why former president Rodrigo Duterte refused to take China head-on regarding ownership of the disputed territories.

His foreign policy was a departure from his predecessor, Noynoy Aquino, who brought the issue to the international tribunal and won. China refused to participate in the proceedings.

Marcos picked up where Aquino left off and sidled close to the United States while relying on its military protection via the Mutual Defense Treaty.

This has effectively cramped China’s style because the US, after all, is a military power far stronger than China.

International military protection is also what the small nation state of Taiwan is banking on as it battles the bigger China, which has claimed Taiwan as its province.

China has not claimed the Philippines as its province. But it claims sovereignty over territories that the Philippines has sovereign rights over, as per the ruling of the international tribunal. Had China been an adherent of a “rules-based order,” there would not have been this conflict in the West Philippine Sea.

But history tells us that a rules-based order has been broken a number of times in the past. That was when newly rich nations harbored imperial designs and sought a restructuring of the existing world order. When that happened, world wars eventually erupted.

This is why there are now worries about another world war erupting from the West Philippine

Sea conflict.

Of course, the world may not survive another world war considering the weapons that some countries have at their disposal.

The destructive effect of nuclear weapons is a given, and we saw a glimpse of that with the US bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. But it would also be wrong for non-nuclear states not to assert their sovereignty just because they don’t want to anger states that possess nuclear weapons.

Unity is an option on this one.

That is why in its struggle against Chinese aggression, the Philippines is soliciting the help of allies, meaning, not only the US but also Japan, Australia and other powers with a stake in the effort to make navigating the West Philippine Sea free from any kind of interference.

“Freedom of navigation” in the West Philippine Sea, it seems, can’t be separated from our sovereign rights in a chunk of that place.


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