EDITORIAL - Blacklisted

EDITORIAL - Blacklisted

(The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Without firing a single shot, the United States has sent a powerful message to China about its invalidated claims over nearly the entire South China Sea. On Wednesday, Washington announced sanctions and restrictions on 24 state-owned Chinese companies and their officials for their involvement in the construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters.

The islands now include Panganiban or Mischief Reef off Palawan. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague awarded the Philippines sovereign rights over the reef as well as Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank, ruling that the areas were within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The PCA, which has 122 contracting party states including the Philippines and China, declared Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal a common fishing ground over which no country may exercise exclusive control.

Equally important, the PCA invalidated China’s so-called nine-dash-line territorial claim over nearly the entire South China Sea. The area being claimed, which includes the West Philippine Sea, is so vast it leaves coastal states around the West Philippine Sea with barely enough area for fishing and other maritime activities.

The 24 blacklisted Chinese companies, some of which are doing business in the Philippines, face trade restrictions in the US. Their officials are barred from entering the US while their relatives may also face visa restrictions.

Washington announced the restrictions as China fired medium-range missiles across the South China Sea on Wednesday, in the latest effort to show strategic dominance and sovereignty in the disputed waters. Beijing has maintained it has peaceful intentions amid its militarization, and has usually responded in kind to economic moves by foreign governments against its interests.

The US and Chinese economies are closely intertwined, and a shooting war between the two countries will be catastrophic for lives and livelihoods. But Washington is showing that there are ways of asserting international rules and demanding responsible actions in the global arena without going to war. The PCA ruling is a powerful tool for advancing the national interest of a country with weak military capability. The ruling must not be left unused, gathering cobwebs in the toolshed.

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