by Jose Mario De Vega
The pertinent facts of this latest confrontation are not in dispute.
According to the Associate Press:
“A Philippine warship attempted to arrest several Chinese fishermen accused of illegal entry and poaching, but was prevented by the arrival of two Chinese surveillance ships. One of the Chinese ships blocked the entrance to a lagoon at the shoal, where at least eight Chinese fishing vessels were anchored. The Chinese ships also ordered the Philippine warship to leave Scarborough, claiming Chinese sovereignty over the rich fishing ground. But the warship has stayed put, arguing it is Philippine territory.”
Hence, due this volatile and fragile situation, diplomats from the two countries concern are scrambling to resolve the impasse.
It is my firm contention and considered view that the most appropriate way and reasonable manner of settling this dispute and claim of ownership must be lodge to the International Court of Justice.
Based on International Law, this sensitive case is so impressed not only with regional peace and stability, but most importantly of both human and universal interest.
The ICJ, without a doubt has the exclusive jurisdiction to resolve this matter of great and grave concern.
The crucial issues that the Court will address and finally pass judgment will be the following:
a. Who among the different claimants and disputants has the superior right with regard to the possession of the said group of islands?
b. Who has the exclusive and/or the collective owner(s) of the same?
c. The judicial act of giving, handling and granting custody, possession and jurisdiction to the rightful and legal owner(s).
My legal contention is in conformity with the thesis advanced by V. Thomas:
“Tensions between China and the Philippines rose when the Philippines challenged China’s claims of exclusive rights and sovereignty over the Spratlys. These islands are reportedly rich in gas, oil and other mineral deposits. China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia have all made claims to them.
“It could turn into a regional hot spot unless a diplomatic way is found to defuse the tension, such as by sharing the resources or, better still, if all the claimant countries refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands.
“Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have availed themselves of the court’s international law expertise to settle territorial disputes.
“The court’s judgment was accepted in good faith by all and this has raised its stature.”
It is my fervent hope that after the ruling of the Court, all the contestants, parties-in-interests, and disputants to this issue will respect and abide by the decision and thereby secure the peace and harmony that the region and the whole world justly deserve.
Indeed, “it is better to settle territorial disputes with the court than opt for war”.
A military confrontation or an armed hostility would be against the interest of humanity.
However, having said and laid down this humble suggestion in the hope of reasonably, peacefully and diplomatically adjudicating and resolving the problem, it is sad and unfortunate to state that China with her full might and vast power is doing acts and postures which undeniably are detrimental and indeed prejudicial to regional peace!
Do I have to list down here their series of historical confrontations with the other disputants with regard to these islands through the years?
China always invoked their so-called historical right to the said islands by virtue of the fact that it is located at the South China Sea.
This is not only a preposterous and outrageous idea, but definitely ridiculous! If we will follow the ‘logic’ of this argument, that is if a reasonable mind could even construe it as a argument its conclusions would be that technically the whole of those islands and countries of Southeast Asia are domains and properties of China.
And if the world will sanction this myopic position of China, then it will serve as a precedent that will empower India to say and assert that all those islands and countries which lies in the Indian Ocean based on their own historical right righteously belongs to it! This is utterly laughable to the core!
A Philippine newspaper, Malaya reported on April 13th that:
“The government has stated that it is prepared to protect the sovereign integrity of the shoal which, at 124 nautical miles off Zambales, is well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In comparison, China is some 500 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal.”
The pertinent question here is: given this irrefutable facts and undeniable proofs, does China have the moral and the legal right to claim the said group of islands, solely on the dubious ground that those islands lies on the sea which contains their name?
On this juncture, may I refer the attention of the public to the article of Chow How Ban, “The Philippines and China in troubled waters”, The Star, April 14th. The author stated in no ambiguous term the following remarkable words:
“Tension is rising in the South China Sea. China’s navy is ready to hit back if a clash between several Chinese fishing boats and a Filipino naval vessel in the waters of Huangyan Island cannot be resolved diplomatically, Chinese patriots have been flooding the media with provocative comments stating that they are ready to go to war.”
China’s navy is ready to hit back, the question is: who hit first? The Philippine warship was within their countries exclusive economic zone, while China is 500 nautical miles away from their home. Who was the aggressor and the invader here?
The Filipinos since day one have always resorted consistently to maximize the diplomatic channel and agreeable for the ICJ to assume jurisdiction!
Will China voluntary submit its claim to the jurisdiction of the ICJ?
Chinese patriots are flooding the media with their provocative calls that they are ready for war.
This is the same thing that the Japanese war-freaks did during 1929 to 1932 when they are emerging then as a global imperial power.
We all know what they did to China then and the rest of the Southeast Asian countries.
Is the author implying that China is now the new Japan?
I vehemently condemn the provocative position taken by the writer which borders on arrogance and pure ignorance.
Because there is a problem the solution is war?
Does he put into consideration how the world will receive this latest impending military fiasco?
Does it mean that the UN and the ASEAN will simply just keep their mouths shut while China is conducting war on the Philippines and/or Vietnam?
How about the global bar of public opinion of the international community? Does it mean that they will just sit back and enjoy watching from a distance this newest version of the battle between David and Goliath?
I do not think so!
As V. Thomas stated:
“Should the dispute worsen, the solidarity of Asean members could be tested, apart from endangering the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality concept, which is a principle accepted by all major military powers to keep Southeast Asia free from conflict.
“Asean members, noting the danger of the dispute should initiate a move, with the support of China and Taiwan, to refer the matter to the court.”
Again, I reiterate that the immediate way to facilitate the prompt resolution of this dispute is for all parties concern to voluntarily submit their contention to the jurisdiction of the ICJ. That is the right and the moral thing to do!
However, if I may again call the attention of the public to the unwise and unfortunate words of Chow How Ban:
“China attaches great importance to friendly ties with countries around South China Sea but a recent altercation between Chinese fishermen and the Philippine navy in the disputed Huangyan Island may turn into a full-scale war.”
Wow! Reading these words I thought I was inside the movie house watching a typical Hollywood film about military hostility and armed confrontation.
Is this a warning to us? Are you threatening us?
To that writer of war of scenario and to the whole of the Chinese empire, may I remind you that we may be small as compare to your hugeness, we may be a dwarf as compare to your gigantic size, we may be poor, as compare to your economy but our people, the Filipino people are not weak, our people have character and strength.
That was precisely shown and exemplified in action in conjunction with our latest showdown when we stood our ground, stayed put and dared you!
Don’t forget that we are the first country in Asia to overthrow a foreign power and declare a republic!
During World War II, we stood and fought the Japanese Imperial Army from day one up to the end!
We fought a dictator for more than two decades and had two revolutions. In fact, when your people tried to copied our own 1986 revolution in 1988 at Tiannamen Square, your government viciously crackdown on the people and the students who led the same!
Hence, do not take us lightly, in the same vein that we are not taking you for granted, too.
We may be small, yet we are capable of inflicting damage to you too!
As a Filipino writer puts it so succinctly, Jose Ma. Montelibano, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 13th:
“China may risk killing some of us but it will find too costly to kill millions of us”.
Lastly, I am not threatening you, but warning you that we have our history of courage and greatness, too.
Hence, I implore China to learn from history: do not ever forget the lessons of the Battle of Thermopylae.
It is always the case that the tiniest of the dust often cause the greatest irritation and discomfort to the biggest bloody eyes!
Again, we are also warning you!
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
April 17, 2012
Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
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