Two more days

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

The wait for the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision on the case filed by the country against China's outrageous claims in the South China Sea is down to two days. But as the decision nears, the rhetoric from Beijing along with its actions in the region seems to show they will not bow down to any decision the court comes up with.

Some analysts have even described China's current situation as akin to war footing. Live fire drills by ships and aircraft have been ongoing in the South China Sea, even as China claims the exercises have nothing to do with the upcoming UN decision. Pretty hard to ignore warships and aircraft firing live missiles, while helicopters go on "sorties."Even their submarines are in on the action.

As the Chinese conduct their live fire exercises, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is patrolling the South China Sea. Three destroyers are also patrolling areas near Chinese claimed artificial islands, particularly Scarborough Shoal.

Everyone seems to be weighing in on the upcoming decision. Experts see the decision as a unifying catalyst for ASEAN, with many members having territorial claims in the region. A unified statement against China's building of artificial islands without first settling territorial issued has eluded ASEAN, because of some nation's allegiance to China. With an international court decision to back it up, ASEAN may finally stand up to China.     

The issue is still the inability of the UN to enforce the decision, whatever it may be. This actually emboldens China to remain belligerent and defiant. Many see China isolating itself from the rest of the international community if it disrespects the ruling.

But China really does not care.

The question is, will ASEAN nations enforce the decision and stand up to China's military might? Will other countries like the US and Japan do a little enforcing of their own? Will the region finally be the flashpoint many have feared?

The Duterte administration's stand is a far cry from the "jetski diplomacy" that President Duterte himself wanted to do during the campaign.

If a decision comes out favorable to the country, we will now be willing to "share" the sea with China. But is that what China even wants?

For China to agree to "sharing,"it would have to accept that it does not have sovereignty over the region. That is not what the fiery rhetoric is driving at. The UN decision will establish the exclusive economic zones that every country is entitled to. Remember that China's "Nine Dash Line" covers almost the whole area.

Since the exclusive zones do not overlap if strictly adhered to, what is there to share? Our fishermen deserve to return to their old fishing grounds, this time without the harassment from the Chinese Coast Guard, if we ourselves can enforce it.

Events post July 12 will be interesting indeed.

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