The Philippines is not a paragon of peace and rule of law on the South China Sea issue

By Ding Duo |
Updated: June 1, 2024
This bird eye view shows the coral reefs in China's Xisha Islands, South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Philippines president Marcos' speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue on May 31 was misleading and deceptive. From "the legal basis for claims" to "rules-based international order", from "regional military threats" to "South China Sea arbitration awards", from "Filipinos do not yield" to "allies and partners make the Philippines not alone", it has not deviated from the Philippines' attempt to solidify or even expand its illegal gains in the South China Sea, has not gone beyond the Philippines' attempt to play the "victim" role on the South China Sea issue, and of course has not forgotten to promote the "pan-security" of the South China Sea issue to win over foreign countries to endorse the Philippine maritime provocations.

In his speech, Marcos referred to the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Washington, and he even acknowledged that these two treaties defined the territorial scope of the Philippines. Since they have all been mentioned, it is necessary to add that it is a series of international treaties, including the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Washington, that stipulates that the western limit of Philippine territory is at 118 degrees east longitude and that Nansha Qundao and Huangyan Dao are far outside the scope of the Philippine "treaty limit".

In his speech, Marcos also referred to the "archipelagic doctrine", which regards all archipelagic states as a single unit, with the waters around, between, and connecting their islands, irrespective of their breadth and dimension, forming part of their internal waters. Since this has also been mentioned, it is necessary to add that in fact, not only the archipelagic countries, but also the islands, reefs, beaches, sands, and the surrounding waters of the offshore archipelagos of the mainland countries also constitute an inseparable part of the archipelago, and this is the case with China's Nansha Qundao, which is called "archipelago integrity."

Marcos said that the notion of Shangri-La conjures up a mystical sense of tranquility, of free souls living in peace and harmony,and that was true. He also said Filipinos are paragons of this dream, which is not true.

The Philippines' illegal occupation has created a dispute between China and the Philippines in Nansha and violated the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms governing international relations. Since the 70s of the 20th century, the Philippines has occupied some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands by force and put forward illegal territorial claims. To realize its territorial expansion ambitions, the Philippines has also fabricated a series of "legal grounds", including "terra nullius", "trust territory", "geographical proximity", and "national security". Such a Philippines is playing with international law.

The Philippines' continuous intrusion into the relevant waters of China's Nansha Qundao, its attacks on the normal production and operation of Chinese fishing vessels, and its brutal and brutal treatment of Chinese fishermen are by no means a model of peace, rule of law and prosperity. According to incomplete statistics, from 1989 to 2015, there were 97 incidents of the Philippines illegally encroaching on the lives and property of Chinese fishermen in the waters of the Nansha Islands, involving nearly 200 Chinese fishing boats and nearly 1,000 fishermen. In 2012, when the Philippine Navy intercepted Chinese fishing boats fishing at Huangyan Dao, Chinese fishermen were stripped of their shirts and exposed to the sun on the decks of Philippine ships, with Philippine Navy guns on their heads. Such a Philippines is no different from a robber at sea.

The Philippines has repeatedly provoked and tried to illegally deliver construction materials to warships beached at Ren'ai Jiao, saying one thing and doing another to China. Such a country as the Philippines is by no means a "model of peace, rule of law, and prosperity". During the administration of the previous Philippine government, China and the Philippines reached a "gentlemen's agreement" on the management and control of the situation at Ren'ai Jiao. Since the current Philippine government took office, China has repeatedly briefed and negotiated relevant matters with the Philippine government's top officials, but the "internal understanding" and "new model" agreed to by the Philippine leadership have been abandoned by the Philippine side after being implemented once, and even Carlos, commander of the Western Military Region of the Philippine Armed Forces, who is responsible for negotiating with the Chinese side, has been pushed out to "take the blame." All these shameless behaviors have made China feel like the true face of the current Philippine government and have also affected the effective operation of the China-Philippines Maritime Consultation Mechanism and eroded the political mutual trust between China and the Philippines. Such a country as the Philippines has little national credibility.

In violation of the consensus reached between China and the Philippines and its commitments in the DOC, the Philippines deliberately packaged the relevant dispute as a mere issue of interpretation or application of the UNCLOS, and maliciously initiated arbitration without prior notice to China, in an attempt to deny China's legitimate claims through an illegal award. Recently, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Justice once again threatened to complete preparations for international arbitration against China within a few weeks. The provocation under the banner of so-called "environmental protection" is still in essence, a violation of the dispute settlement mechanism established by the UNCLOS and an abuse of international judicial procedures. This is not a practice of the international rule of law, but a reckless attempt to impinge on the international order based on international law for its own selfish interests.

In this way, on the South China Sea issue, there are quite a few "such Philippines" that are diametrically opposed to the "model of peace, rule of law and prosperity". 

Ding Duo is deputy director and associate research fellow at the Research Center for Ocean Law and Policy at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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