Is the Philippines an Orphan?
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

Is the Philippines an Orphan?

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The ongoing naval standoff between China and the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal clearly indicates the difficulties in constraining Beijing from unilaterally asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over all of the islands, rocks, and adjacent waters in the South China Sea. The reality is that China’s actions in prolonging the standoff are a portent of the difficulties that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will face in trying to constrain China by negotiating a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

The current standoff began early last month, when the Philippines dispatched the naval frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar to investigate an earlier sighting of several Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon at Scarborough Shoal. An armed boarding party from the frigate discovered that one of the fishing boats contained large amounts of giant clams, coral, and live sharks that appeared to have been illegally harvested from waters lying within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Two unarmed China Marine Surveillance (CMS) vessels interposed themselves between the fishermen and the frigate, thus precipitating the standoff. China and the Philippines proceeded to trade diplomatic protests over this incident. In an effort to diffuse tensions, the Philippines replaced the navy frigate with the Coast Guard cutter BRP Edsa

China, meanwhile, reinforced its presence by dispatching an armed Fishery Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) ship to relieve one of the CMS vessels. The Chinese fishing boats later slipped away with their catch. On April 20, China further reinforced its presence at Scarborough Shoal with the arrival of its most advanced FLEC ship, Yuzheng 310.

Both China and the Philippines claim sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal and argue that that it’s an integral part of their national territory. Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a rock is entitled to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea. The Philippines further claims that the waters surrounding Scarborough Shoal fall within its 200 nautical mile EEZ.

The Philippines has invited China to join it in submitting claims to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for arbitration. This is an inappropriate forum, however, as the Tribunal can only decide matters of maritime jurisdiction, not questions of sovereignty which need to be solved first.

China’s claim to sovereignty rests on historic rights arising from prior discovery. The Philippines, on the other hand, bases its claims to sovereignty on intermittent occupation and continual administration since independence. This matter could be decided bilaterally by China and the Philippines or by an international court if both parties agree. Neither prospect seems likely given that the Philippines refuses to negotiate bilaterally and China refuses to place the matter before an international court.

The Philippines has thus turned to ASEAN and the United States for support. But the standoff over Scarborough Shoal has provoked a domestic outcry and made it abundantly clear that the Philippines holds misconceived expectations over the roles that ASEAN and the U.S. can play.

Comments
100
jack
May 4, 2013 at 07:58

Philippines has more friends?Even Asean nations are not interested in backing Philippines.,

one of the most corrupt countries in the world, even more than China according to transparency

index.

JuniorKilat
December 21, 2013 at 13:53

It does seem you did not do your homework Jack? It seems your knowledge drowned with the sinking of Titanic..

jack
May 4, 2013 at 07:45

True.Vietnam got whacked for being intransigent.PM pham van dong had made clear Vietnam relinquished

claim to Paracal and spratly.What do we have now? She says what the Prime minister said does not count.In the court of law, that is called estoppel.

Philippines suddenly claimed scarborough based on 1982UNCLOS.They have since changed their tune

somewhat after realising the UNCLOS may not be useful in this dispute as it covers maritime interest and not territorial dispute.They have now claimed that the islands were spanish and by right they should inherit them.That is also their basis for Sabah(thru Sulu), which President Marcos even thought about military intervention.Too bad. A robber gets robbed by another robber will scream the loudest.Many 

Asean countries can see through both Vietnam and Philippines' intention and the Malaysian commentator is right the summit being hyjacked.A similar incident is being played out in the Himilayas.

 

jack
May 4, 2013 at 04:16

China's government cares more for the welfare of its' citizens than many govt. in SEAsia.

300 million people were lifted out of poverty.Their lives are getting better.Can you say the same

for Philippines or India.The vast majority live on $1-2 dollars a day.Do you see light at the end

of the tunnel for these disenfranchsed majority?Look at the transparency index of these countries

.They are way down at the bottom of the totem pole.Where is the rule of law, a pillar of democracy?

You tell me.

Jojo Rendon
March 12, 2013 at 15:03

A peaceful living is what I dreamt of for my love ones, friends and fellow citizen; for sure this is what others wanted too. I pray for the mutual understanding and the claim should be ended peacefully and documented, so no conflict will arise in the future. Let both government speak for it duly witness by the UN and the ICC. How nice to feel living no enemy, no threats and no fears.  

Ric
January 30, 2013 at 23:45

Funny how China keeps insisting on "bilateral negotiations." It's obvious that China has no idea what the word "negotiation" even means. "Negotiation" implies that both parties must be willing to settle for something less than what they originally wanted. Not so for the Chinese, their idea of "negotiation" is repeating the same absurd claim to the entire South China Sea again and again. Are they hoping that it'll sound less absurd the more they repeat it? And then while "negotiating", sneakily occupying islands while nobody's looking.
 
The Chinese are fundamentally incapable of "negotiating" when all they care about is what they want. We've tried "negotiating" with them for decades. Now we'll do it our way.

Aldy
April 2, 2014 at 19:19

China are very ambitious that’s why they want to get the things that they want when they want it.

[...] many observers, the recent disputes over Scarborough Shoal and other island territories have become a matter of great concern. Beijing is less disturbed, however. In fact, China’s strategy is to maintain this sometimes [...]

[...] The most recent target of the employment of economic measures by China for coercive purposes was the Philippines, which on April 10 sent a navy frigate to investigate the sighting of Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.  After an armed boarding party discovered giant clams, coral, and live sharks aboard the boats, an attempt to arrest the fisherman was thwarted by two civilian China Maritime Surveillance vessels that arrived on the scene.  The Philippines withdrew the frigate and replaced it with a Coast Guard Cutter.  China dispatched an armed Fishery Law Enforcement Command ship to reinforce its sovereignty claim.  The standoff continued for over a month. [...]

Errol T
June 14, 2012 at 15:12

That our diplomats have done, as can be seen in the previous weeks. We can't defend ourselves properly, but we can shore up our international relationships to provide the leverage we need.

Errol T
June 14, 2012 at 15:10

Actually, the Spanish governor-general has lots of motivation to map out Spain's holdings, and in this case, the Philippines. Don't forget that during the centuries, Spain was in competition with the English, who held Singapore and Malaysia, and the Dutch, who held Indonesia. In fact, Manila was briefly occupied by the English as an extension of Spain's war with England back in Europe. To say that the Spanish cartographers didn't do their job would be saying they aren't the imperialists they used to be.

Albert
May 21, 2012 at 10:48

The maps that China claims to have been made thousands of years ago, if they really exist, may just be navigational maps. Not good proof of ownership, in my opinion. This may be the reason why China does not want the matter be decided by UNCLOS.

Vic
May 20, 2012 at 09:04

This is false history. The Spanish never went down side, so there is no mapping there. The Spaniards were only interested in the Acapulco-Manila trade to link up with the China trade. Mindanao is Muslim land, the Spaniards did not have to tangle with the Muslims and try to convert them to Christianity.

Vic
May 20, 2012 at 08:55

Boundaries are drawn after both sides agree. Agreement can be reached after an armed conflict or through mutual benefits. As Philippines lacks the “guns” to back up her claim, obviously it must think of a way to give “benefits” to placate the other side for a boundary that is acceptable. So think “guns” and “benefits”. Philippines as the weaker side militarily, must act diplomatically. China as the stronger side will act militarily. Filipino leaders must learn to use their “coconuts” more effectively.

Bob the Builder
May 17, 2012 at 20:14

We can trade in all Philippine should go home from Hong Kong and Will all chinese and Chinese mixes go home from South East Asia,, Singapore, Philippine, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia…

ceasar
May 15, 2012 at 00:32

Great piece. However China (the government) doesn’t care. It doesn’t even care for the welfare of their people. What else of the rest?

Cyrus
May 13, 2012 at 05:50

I’m sorry but it was hilarious.

FYI: Provided this were true if indeed Filipino’s arrived in China during the Qin(Chin) Dynasty and presented the Philippine Islands as being part of China. Does this mean if they can reach China all the way from the Philippines it is safe to assume that they already know of Spratly & Scarborough Shoal way before the Chinese discovered this islands vis a vis Maritime Survey during Yuan Dynasty?

Wow, Chinese has a way of destroying their own “undeniable” historical rights over Spratly’s and Scarborough.

Vahn
May 13, 2012 at 01:02

have hope, Storm season is coming, that area will be untouchable from china until January next year, its an area where tropical storms from the pacific pass through

Ling Nam
May 12, 2012 at 16:42

Then in that case should the Philippines be deporting millions Chinese, their children and grandchildren who bribe their way into the Philippines to run from poverty and communist pirates back to China. Where is this going to end?

brearbear
May 12, 2012 at 16:01

i am Canadian.
i say this. PLEASE HEAR THIS! EDITORS PLEASE PRINT THIS!
1. Dear China…
Being HUMBLE..SHARING…CARING…And FORGIVING NEEDS TO BE THE SLOGAN OF THE FUTURE!Please only be defensive.
I NEVER EVER WANT TO SEE CHINA BE TAKEN OVER LIKE WHAT HAPPENED IN WW2! GET TOUGH…AND FOREVER…STAY TOUGH!
BUT… KEEP HUMBLE! AND HELP THE REST OF THIS AWESOME, DIVERSE, INCREDIBLE, AMAZING, AND WONDERFUL PLANET!
Following International Law. HELP OTHERS! WE ALL NEED TO WORK TOGETHER! AS ONE!
2. Please become an ECOLOGICAL-GREEN-EARTH FRIENDLY SUPER POWER!
Spend your wealth AND ENERGIES on protecting the Planet!
3. Please China…somehow PLEASE!…share the wealth of Asias Fragile SEAS.
First protect it.
IT IS EXTREMELY FRAGILE…
AND IS OF EXTREME IMPORTANCE TO NOT JUST YOUR COUNTRY’S FUTURE…BUT TO ALL ASIAN PACIFIC RIM COUNTRIES THAT SHARE THAT great sea! AND TO ALL OF US ON THIS EARTH!
I DO NOT WANT…AND I FEAR OIL SPILLS… ETC.. HITTING THE SEAS… LET ALONE A WORLD WAR!
WE ALL HAVE FUCHISHIMA HITTING US ALL HARD!
Second …share the wealth equally so all nations may prosper!
WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO SHARE????????????????????????????
…Spend your energies on making the World a better place….for future generations!
please stop sabre rattling. the same goes for you “Western” powers!
we ALL share this small fragile Planet. And it is getting polluted.
MAY WE ALL WORK TOGETHER TO ENSURE A HEALTHY PEACEFUL FUTURE, AND MAY WE ALL, TOGETHER AS ONE…GET OUR $#%# TOGETHER…AND GET EXPLORING THIS INCREDIBLE UNIVERSE WE HAVE BEFORE US!
I DARE YOU “EDITORS’ TO LET ME HAVE MY “FREE SPEECH” AND PRINT THIS..

THANK YOU ALL IN PEACE!
BREAR BEAR

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