Philippines summarizes case vs China (First of three parts)

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Concluding remarks of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario before the UN arbitration court in The Hague

1. Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Tribunal, good afternoon. Before our Agent, the Honorable Solicitor General, presents our final submissions, it is my honor to respectfully address you one last time in this Great Hall of Justice.

2. When I first had the privilege of appearing before you in July, it was at the beginning of the hearings on jurisdiction. We did not know then whether or not we would ever reach this point.  The Philippines, however, never doubted this Tribunal’s jurisdiction. 

But there are some who could not believe that the Arbitral Tribunal would have the courage to apply the law to a country like China.

3. There are those who think the rule of law in international relations does not apply to Great Powers. We reject that view. International law is the great equalizer among States. It allows small countries to stand on an equal footing with more powerful States. Those who think “might makes right” have it backwards. It is exactly the opposite, in that right makes might.

4. That is why, in January 2013, we confidently put our fate in the hands of this Tribunal and the compulsory dispute resolution mechanisms of UNCLOS. With your wise guidance, we have come a long way.

5. Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Tribunal, the 29 October Award on Jurisdiction is a remarkable document. It will not only stand the test of time, it will be a model for ages. It is remarkable in many ways, most especially for its moral strength.  It is a compelling rebuke to those who doubt that international justice does exists and will prevail.

6. I say this not just as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, but also as a global citizen. It is not just the fate of the Philippines that rests in your hands. I note the presence of the distinguished observers from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. I thank them for their presence. Other countries too are watching to see what this Tribunal will do.

7. It is fitting that these hearings are ending as 2015 itself draws to a close. This year, marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

That great institution is an expression of the best in us. It is unfortunate that it took one of the saddest episodes in human history to create it. Yet, those of us who lived through that episode also remember the hopes for a new chapter in our common history. We dared to envision a future of enduring peace, shared prosperity and a new era of collaboration.

8. Two centerpieces of that new order were the sovereign equality of all States, and the commitment to settle disputes peacefully. The sovereign equality of States is enshrined in the first substantive provision of the UN Charter, Article 2(1). The obligation to settle disputes by peaceful means appears subsequently in Article 2(3).

9. Mechanisms for the compulsory settlement of disputes were also a critical part of this new order.

Article 33(1) specifically mentions arbitration and judicial settlement. And, of course, the Charter also gave birth to the International Court of Justice.

10. I am proud to say that the Philippines was among the original 51 signatories of the UN Charter. This was true for China as well.

11. When we started this arbitration, the Philippines was fulfilling one of its most solemn duties, which is to settle international disputes peacefully. The Tribunal knows that our disputes with China in the South China Sea have, for a long time, complicated our relationship. Most recently, tensions have risen dramatically. Unable to resolve these disputes ourselves, we thus turned to this arbitration to provide all parties a durable, rules-based solution.

12. China has said that it considers the initiation of this arbitration to be “an unfriendly act.” We disagree. In 1982, the UN General Assembly adopted the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes Between States which declared that recourse to the judicial settlement of disputes “should not be considered an unfriendly act between States.”

13. This year is also the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China. Since 1975, economic and political ties between our two countries have continuously grown.  We view China as a valued friend. And it is precisely to preserve that friendship that we initiated this arbitration.  (To be continued)

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