IN a seemingly endless litany of adjectives to describe our arbitral award from a scrap of paper, our country’s leadership now calls it “meaningless”. Of which such term “meaningless” implies of no value or significance; and to use such descriptive word is to challenge the very nature of International Law.
Let me stress that a State is bound to act in accordance with international customary law, and follow any international treaty it has signed and ratified. This is a fundamental principle in international law called “pacta sunt servanda” (agreements must be respected) which, follows both from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and international customary law. International humanitarian law (IHL) conventions and human rights treaties are examples of sources of a state’s international obligations.
International law also sets out obligations that arise when a state commits a serious breach of international law. These obligations are triggered when the serious breach constitutes the violation of a peremptory norm of general international law. Peremptory norms are norms accepted and recognized by the international community of states as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.
Moreover, states have elevated obligations where peremptory norms are violated. The gravity of the violation of a peremptory norm dictates a collective response to counteract the effects of the breach of international law. These obligations include: (1) Non-recognition; (2) Non-assistance; and (3) Cooperate to bring to an end the violation in question. The rationale for these heightened obligations is the gravity of breaches of peremptory norms which affect the international community as a whole.
In this context, the simple reality is that we won an award that clearly defines and recognizes our exclusive rights over marine and natural resources within 200 nml of our shoreline. To deny and dismiss this truth is unpatriotic and treasonous.
When China contended claim over our West Philippine Sea through their “nine-dash line” argument, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague under the dispute settlement procedures of Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled that China has never clarified whether the line represents a claim to the islands within the line and their adjacent waters; a boundary of national sovereignty over all the enclosed waters (including, but not limited by, the land features inside the line); or a “historic” claim of sovereignty or some other set of historic rights to the maritime space within the line. The Philippines sought a declaration that the countries’ respective rights and obligations regarding the waters, seabed, and maritime features of the South China Sea are governed by UNCLOS. As such, China’s claims based on any “historic rights” to waters, seabed, and subsoil within the nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid.
Sadly, the only winner in this attempt to misrepresent our arbitral award as “meaningless” is the “friend” of the president — Mr. Xi Jinping; but notwithstanding this “deal with the Devil” these things remain clear: (1) We own and have exclusive rights over our EEZ; (2) We won the arbitral award recognizing our sovereign rights over the EEZ; (3) China has and continue to illegally occupy parts of our EEZ stealing our resources to the detriment of the Filipino people; and (4) The only one at fault and aggressor in the West Philippine Sea dispute is China. Having said this it is clear that this is not about convincing the Filipino people with fake news and statements from spin doctors on how this issue should be handled. It should be handled peacefully with the best interest of our compatriots in mind.
“The arbitral award gives us the legal and the moral right over the EEZ; and it is a duty to protect and preserve it for the next generations of Filipinos. It only seems “meaningless” to a president who is ‘inutil’ and deserter. Contradicting claims and weak defeatist statements from Mr. Duterte would only serve to weaken our claim to China’s delight.
In the context of these overwhelming legal and moral justifications (both in domestic and international law) to assert our right is warranted, only a political coward and traitor to our constitution would hide behind false diplomacy and exaggerated threats of war. This has also been recognized by the international community except of course China. The support and recognition of the international community is of paramount importance because should China continue its aggressive action and disregard the arbitral ruling it runs the risk of losing its international prestige and credibility” (Atty. Howard M. Calleja).
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