19 July 2017

News Story: Putting law to work in the South China Sea

By Dindo Manhit

As far as the Philippines is concerned, it has been a quiet July for foreign policy. Although the one-year anniversary of The Hague ruling on the Philippine case against China has just passed, there have been too few events marking the occasion or even debating its significance. The Stratbase ADR Institute held a forum on this topic last week, but there is still plenty of room for us to talk about where our national priorities lay on this issue.

International law at work

While the Philippines has been relatively quiet, there continue to be interesting developments in the South China Sea. Throughout July, various news sources have reported that US aircraft and vessels have been challenging what China believes to be its waters in the South China Sea. These latest exchanges have come on top of the greatly publicized freedom of navigation operation that the US conducted in May around Mischief Reef. These developments appear to confirm that the Trump administration is not taking a softer approach on upholding the rules-based order.

Even more interesting is the decision by Indonesia to rename the waters in the northern part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) the “North Natuna Sea.” This move is awfully familiar to our country—we did the same thing with the West Philippine Sea. This move was not welcomed by China: one foreign ministry spokesman said that the change “makes no sense at all.” China’s illegal nine-dash line is so expansive, it overlaps with that section of Indonesia’s EEZ, even more distant from China than the Spratly islands. Could we be seeing similar moves from ASEAN partners soon?

These decisions by other countries just go to show that international law still matters. This is an important point for that we can do more in the Philippines to appreciate.

Read the full story at PhilStar