Corporate Spratlys, anyone?

by Tomas Gomez III

Posted at Jun 25 2014 04:31 PM | Updated as of Jul 02 2014 07:10 AM

President Obama recently declared the vast sea space between Hawaii and Samoa, an area covering 1.26 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean, an environmental preserve, a conservation area that will ban exploration and fishing. All of this marine expanse is U.S. territory, with nary a nation contesting possession and control. Except, of course, for the Republicans who contest anything but anything that has an Obama content!

Could something in that order and magnitude ever happen among the Spratlys and Scarborough? With multilateral disputes involving 6 nations? Would such an idea even stand a “Chinaman’s chance,” what with, irony intended, China playing the bully, the insatiable hog wanting to snout out any nation her wake? Without China’s monumental voracity for industrial resources and the aggressive political bellicosity with which she barrels over the disputed area, the scheme just might possess a “Chinaman’s chance.” Very slim, indeed, but worth mulling over. In the name of peace and equanimity, the other five, our country included, may wish to follow the US/Obama lead.

Too early to call the mortician for an idea that just died? Inveterate optimists unite! Never say “die.” The search for peace must never flounder.

In early September 1988, I took note of a Kyodo News international wire service carrying a story about then Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul S. Manglapus visiting Vietnam the following month. Coincidentally, Secretary Manglapus was passing through Honolulu, on a brief airport stop-over, where I was then serving as Consul General.

Under the heading of "for whatever it may be worth,” I took the opportunity of speaking with the Secretary and handed him a one-page memo re: our Spratlys problem and his forthcoming visit to Hanoi. It was a “baka sakali lang, Mr. Secretary"-moment, (just in case) especially from one who was a mere “political appointee” in the foreign service! (Traditionally, Foreign Affairs career personnel regard “political appointees” as undeserving, incompetent interloping opportunists. But though that’s par for the course, it was never insurmountable.)

Would the Secretary perhaps consider floating an idea for a potential solution to a threatening “major, major” foreign relations imbroglio when he visited with his Vietnamese counterpart? The kind Secretary did thank me for the idea, glanced at the paper, folded it some more and slipped it into his inside coat pocket.

I was positing that it is far easier and beneficial to engage in commerce and share profits than wage costly and counterproductive war-like and near warring skirmishes among disputants. Motherhood statement!

The gist of my proposal was for “all contesting parties to consent to come together and by mutual multilateral accord, convert the entire Spratlys into an international body--whose principal asset shall be the totality of all the contested areas and all physical natural resources found under and within its boundaries--to be commonly owned in pari passu as stockholders and owned in equal shares by all present and historical claimant countries.”

“Pari passu,” a Latin legal jargon employed usually for matters concerning loans and inheritances. The phrase merely means ‘pantay-pantay…walang palusot…walang lamangan.” All in equal footing.

Was I dreaming and fit to be laughed out of the room? I thought that the Spratlys could become "the first genuine model of a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality devoted to a ‘for profit’ undertaking.”...“Would the United Nations perhaps be willing to secure the envisaged corporate territory’s integrity for a fee?”
Dubious and presumptuous? So out of the box? Anyway, it was another “for-whatever-it–may-be-worth” moment! Optimists have them by the bagful!


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