David and Goliath

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas - The Freeman

Along with Egypt and India, China was one of the major civilizations in the past. The world owes much to the contributions, especially the knowledge and cultural heritage that came from these ancient centers.          

China has since moved on through its various historical stages. At the height of its recent economic resurgence, the present leadership seems bent on retrieving China's past glory and prominent position in the world. Backed by its military resources, China went on to claim territories beyond historical maps and beyond its internationally allowed borders.

The world is witness to Chinese movement in the South China Sea, their construction of structures even as other nations, including the Philippines, protested that the big giant was encroaching in what our country had always considered our own, sariling atin.

Our fisherfolks, so used to fishing in our own waters by the South China Sea, have been harassed and prevented from doing so by Chinese military stationed in the area. China has insisted that what was and what continues to be ours was theirs, based on their nine-dash line based on their own idea of what constitutes and how to assert ownership of territories.

Without consultation and maintaining its provocative stance in the South China Sea, China unilaterally moved on with its might and structures, continuing to display their military capacity in the area, especially in the days before the historic decision of the Arbitration Tribunal in the Hague was to unfold.

The Philippines tried to insist on its ownership and sovereignty of the China-disputed area but China would not listen. Like David in the Bible, the Philippines, under the leadership of PNoy, held on to its strength - faith, that justice would be rendered to the Philippines, faith in the rule of law, faith in the whole international community to judge its rightful claim to its territory in the South China Sea.

July 12, 2016 will be a memorable day for the Filipinos. On this day, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled that "there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources, that China had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights, and, had caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment" by building artificial islands." Other key findings of the international tribunal included: 1) fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area and China had interfered by restricting access; 2) China had "destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea" that formed part of the dispute; and, 3) transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation - one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles granted for rocks visible at high tide."

While the Filipinos celebrated this victory versus a giant, expectedly, China refuses to accept the international tribunal's ruling. At present, global support for the Philippines as the rightful winner in this case as well as criticisms continue to be observed.

The impact of this ruling in practice remains to be seen, however. While the ruling is binding, the "Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement." The case vs China was brought during the term of PNoy. How the new leadership will respond to this ruling and how the new administration will relate to China will still unfold.

Whether the new administration's move will represent the position of the Filipino people will also be known soon.

Meanwhile, let us be reminded to pray as we always do as a people, this time to thank God for this global support for our claim to our territory, to thank PNoy and the rest of the Filipino and international team that made this legal victory possible, and to thank God for His continuing protection and grace for our people and our country.

Let us also remember to pray for peace within this very volatile situation. May all nations prioritize peace and cooperation rather than military arrogance and power. May we all find the time to pray for peace, in our hearts, in our land, and all throughout the world.

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