Established by the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague in 1899 during the first Hague Peace Conference; the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), was the first permanent intergovernmental organization to provide a forum for the resolution of international disputes through arbitration and other peaceful means.
Article 16 of the 1899 Convention acknowledged that “in questions of a legal nature, and especially in the interpretation or application of International Conventions” arbitration is the “most effective, and at the same time the most equitable, means of settling disputes which diplomacy has failed to settle”. Accordingly, Article 20 of the 1899 Convention formally established the PCA, stating: “[w]ith the object of facilitating an immediate recourse to arbitration for international differences which it has not been possible to settle by diplomacy, the signatory Powers undertake to organize a Permanent Court of Arbitration, accessible at all times and operating, unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, in accordance with the rules of procedure inserted in the present Convention”. The 1899 Convention was revised at the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907.
For instance, on 22 January 2013, the Republic of the Philippines instituted arbitral proceedings against the People’s Republic of China under Annex VII to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The arbitration concerned the role of historic rights and the source of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, the status of certain maritime features in the South China Sea, and the lawfulness of certain actions by China in the South China Sea that the Philippines alleged to be in violation of the Convention.
China adopted a position of non-acceptance and non-participation in the proceedings. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) served as Registry in this arbitration; and on July 12, 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines and invalidated China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea through its “nine-dash line” policy that encroached on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
This settlement role is so crucial when powerful nations act as bullies to which legitimate claims such as ours are given equal footing in the eyes of the international community. And, I for one join our Philippine Senate in their resolution condemning China’s continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and its persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea. Hopefully, like this resolution honoring the PCA, a resolution raising Beijing’s illegal and inappropriate acts before the United Nations General Assembly likewise gets international support.
As condemned by our Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), China Coast Guard’s (CCG’s) has dangerously maneuvered and illegally used water cannons against the PCG vessels escorting the native boats commissioned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last August 5, 2023. These boats were delivering food, water, fuel and other supplies to our military troops stationed on BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
To quote the PCG, “such actions by the CCG not only disregarded the safety of the PCG crew and the supply boats but also violated international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), and the 2016 Arbitral Award. The PCG calls on the China Coast Guard to restrain its forces, respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, refrain from hampering freedom of navigation, and take appropriate actions against the individuals involved in this unlawful incident”.
Such crucial international arbitration role has thus been recognized by the UN General Assemblythrough a Philippines-led resolution to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Introduced by Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo (Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN) on behalf of a core group of states which included Australia, Egypt, Guatemala, Hungary and Thailand, this resolution enjoyed broad cross-regional support with 122 countries registering its support and co-sponsorship of the resolution.
This UN adopted resolution highlights 3 key measures: (1) [It] encourages member states that have not yet done so to accede to the Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes of 1899 and 1907; (2) [It] encourages member states to use the PCA’s services, consistent with international law, in arbitration, conciliation, mediation, commissions of inquiry, and other peaceful means of dispute resolution; and (3) [It] requests the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of member states, the organizations of the United Nations system, and all stakeholders.
Kudos to our UN Philippine Representatives for yet another international contribution to the ongoing “dialectics of thought” of upholding the rule of law in protecting and preserving international order which echoes our steadfast dedication to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the world.
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