Editorial: Restraint and sobriety

THAT was the message of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella when asked how the Philippine Government under President Rodrigo Duterte will proceed given the international arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the South Chinas Sea-West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Basically, it is that we welcome the ruling. However, we proceed with caution, with restraint and sobriety,” Abella was reported by Sunnex to have said in a chance interview.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in a 500-page decision in favor of the Philippines saying that China’s nine-dash line claim has no legal basis. The decision alone is six and a half pages long, taking into consideration all contentions submitted by both countries.

The China’s nine-dash line is an adaptation of Taiwan’s 11-dash line demarcation of territory made in 1947.

Among the many declarations made in the ruling, of note is the one that specifically refers to the nine-dash line where it says, the tribunal: “Declares that, as between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention.”

The Convention refers to the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. The UNClos lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world's oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources that was threshed out between 1973 to 1982.

An hour after the decision was released, Abella said, Duterte gathered the Cabinet officials during which the President sought an update. While there was relief that the international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philppines, there was “subdued victory celebration” as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre described the meeting. Even before he became President, Duterte was very clear in saying that he does not intend to go to war against China as he is not willing to shed the blood of any Filipino soldier in a war where the country cannot win, whether it be in numbers of troops or equipment.

Duterte has been very firm that all actions by government, whether it be in international relations or domestic concerns, will be for the common good.

“We are now waiting for the right responses coming from the government. So I’m sure that everything will be for the common good, especially for those who are directly involved, including the fishermen,” Abella said.

It is best for the Filipinos themselves to take this decision with restraint and sobriety. There is more to this than the boastfulness generated by the victory. There is more at stake and more involved than just our ego.

On the frontlines are not just the scraggly crew of Philippine Navy on a dilapidated navy boat, but also the poor fishermen who are merely eking out a living, and us the Filipinos who may be caught in a war we never imagined. It pays for the keyboard warriors to realize this. This is about lives, not just internet connection.

Restraint, sobriety, and common good are words we can all start with.


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