The Philippines can take its territorial dispute with China to other legal platforms aside from a United Nations-backed court that the Asian giant has snubbed, an expert said Wednesday, following reports of Beijing's latest incursions into disputed waters.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2016 junked Beijing's "historic rights" to nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea. However, the tribunal has no enforcement mechanism and China has refused to recognize the ruling.
Manila can lodge a new case or an extension of the arbitration before international conventions on the environment, biological diversity and endangered species, said Atty. Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines.
"Mayroong mga puwedeng gamitin doon na paraan at instrumento para nga matawag ang atensyon ng buong mundo dito sa ginagawa ng China," said Batongbacal, who heads the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Laws of the Seas.
(There are ways and instruments there to draw international attention on what China is doing.)
Manila recently filed a diplomatic protest over hundreds of Chinese militia vessels swarming off Pag-asa Island on the South China Sea.
The government will also take "legal action" over the reported extraction of giant clams in the area by Chinese trawlers, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
China had been "insincere" while Manila pursued closer ties with it, said Batongbacal.
"Habang nag-uusap sila ng sharing daw at kung ano-ano pa, in the meantime e ayan, ninanakaw na pala 'yung mga resources. Pagdating ng panahon e wala nang pag-uusapan dahil kinuha na nilang lahat," he told radio DZMM.
(While they are talking about sharing, in the meantime, China has stolen resources. Someday, there will be no point to discuss anymore because they would have already taken everything.)
The international community, he added, cannot aid the Philippines over the issue if it will refuse to bring up the UNCLOS ruling that invalidated China's 9-dash line on the waterway.
"Kung tayo mismo ay ayaw nating i-enforce at payag tayong ang ibang bansa ay papasok d'yan at kukuhanin ang ating likas-yaman, walang magagawa ang international community kasi ikaw iyun e, dapat call mo yan. Pag-aari mo iyan, dapat ikaw ang magproteksyon," he said.
(If we don't want to enforce it and instead allow other countries to go there and harvest our natural resources, the international community cannot do anything because that should be your call. That's your property, you should protect it.)
DZMM, 17 April 2019