MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday said it would be better for the Philippines to stay neutral on Crimea's secession from Ukraine and defer extending recognition to Crimea's move.
Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations and judge-elect of the International Criminal Court, said the Philippines can still have a normal working relationship with Crimea even if it refuses to recognize its decision to secede from Ukraine.
"In the case of the Philippines, the better part of prudence dictates that you must leave for the moment whether we shall recognize Crimea. If necessary, we can have a working relationship with Crimea if it becomes absolutely necessary," Santiago told reporters.
Santiago said international law is neutral on secession, and the Crimea event does not yet constitute customary international law.
"What is the international law on secession? There is no answer to that question because at this point there is no customary international law that governs secession so international law is neutral. It does not support, it does not reject secession," Santiago told reporters.
In her keynote speech at the International Youth Leadership Conference on Friday, Santiago explained that "international law is not found in laws passed by an international parliament. International law develops from the practice of states, supranational organizations, international courts, civil society, minorities, and transnational corporation."
"Today, the definition of secession now implies that secession results in separation, regardless of whether or not the separation happens with the consent of the existing state. Because of this development, at present there is no authoritative definition of secession," she said.
Santiago said the Philippines must follow its move to not recognize Kosovo, a landlocked state in the Balkan Peninsula which seceded from Serbia in 2008.
"We do not have to extend official recognition to it because even now the Philippines has not extended official recognition to Kosovo. And there are many parallelisms between the case of Crimea and Kosovo. What we should do is we should just be neutral on the question of Crimea."
Crimea was a semi-autonomous region in Ukraine, which voted to secede and join Russia after the pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovich was deposed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state, defying Western nations.
Majority of the people in Crimea are Russians. The peninsula was given to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
The United States, European Union, and the newly formed government of Ukraine refused to recognize the referendum, accusing Putin of "land grabbing."
Both the US and EU have slapped sanctions against key Russian and Ukrainian personalities, in what could be the biggest crisis involving the Eastern and Western powers since the Cold War Era. – with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News