MANILA, Philippines - By turning to international arbitration to define its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, Manila has shown there are options to resolve territorial disputes other than lopsided negotiations where mighty nations lord over small ones.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. voiced the observation in a speech during a reception he hosted for Washington-based journalists led by National Press Club president Myron Belkind.
“We have always been asked why we have resorted to arbitration. Our answer is simple. International law is the great equalizer,” Cuisia said in his remarks.
He said Manila sees the arbitration case as a model for other smaller states in a similar situation. Manila’s resorting to international arbitration was prompted by China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.
He said other similarly situated countries should take the cue from Manila and consider the dispute settlement mechanisms under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or the United Nations Charter.
“By taking the legal route, we are showing the world that states have other viable options to resolving disputes other than in an asymmetrical negotiation where the big and militarily strong nation will dominate the smaller nation in the negotiating table,” he said.
The Philippines filed its arbitration case in 2013. It formally submitted its memorial or written arguments to the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague on March 30, 2014.
China ignored the Dec. 15 deadline set by the UN arbitral tribunal for the submission of its defense.
Beijing vowed not to participate in an arbitration, saying it would only accept bilateral negotiations with Manila.
Cuisia said a study prepared by Washington supports the Philippine position on the need for peaceful clarification of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.
“Studies such as the one produced by the US contribute to the substantive international literature that supports the primacy and utility of UNCLOS in the determination of maritime entitlements and the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes,” he pointed out.
Cuisia also said a recent statement from Vietnam on the arbitration case was helpful in promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful solutions to the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.
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