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South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Philippines is a Typical Example of "False Accusation by Evil-doer"
2016-06-22 22:09

South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Philippines is a Typical Example of "False Accusation by Evil-doer"

Ye Qiang, Assistant Research Fellow at National Institute for South China Sea Studies

In January 2013, the Philippines unilaterally initiated the so-called international arbitration over the South China Sea issues between China and the Philippines. By doing so, the Philippines attempted to cover up the central issue between China and the Philippines - namely the disputes over the territorial ownership and maritime delimitation of the Nansha Islands - through the so-called interpretation and application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("Convention" below), and to employ the Convention to deny the right the Charter of the United Nations grants a sovereign state that its territorial sovereignty is integral and cannot be violated, misleading the public and making excuses for its acts of illegally occupying part of China's Nansha Islands. This behavior of the Philippines is a typical example of "false accusation by the evil-doer".

At the essence of the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea is the territorial disputes that arose from the illegal occupation in the 1970s by the Philippines, in breach of its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, of a group of islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands.

The South China Sea Islands have been China's territory since ancient times. The successive Chinese government has kept exercising jurisdiction over the South China Sea Islands and relevant sea areas in the form of administrative means, military patrolling, production operation, and marine salvage, etc. After launching the all-out war of aggression against China, Japan occupied the Xisha and Nansha Islands of China. The Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation clearly stated that all the territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese shall be restored to China. Following its victory against Japan, China retook the Xisha and Nansha Islands, sent troops to garrison the islands, and constructed various sorts of military and civilian facilities there, resuming legally and practically its exercise of sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands.

The uti possidetis principle means establishing the frontiers of newly independent states following decolonization, by ensuring that the frontiers followed the original boundaries of the old colonial territories from which they emerged. The Philippines as a colony of the United States, the scope of its territories was explicitly defined by the Treaty of Paris of 1898, the Treaty between the Kingdom of Spain and the United States of America for Cession of Outlying Islands of the Philippines (1900), and the Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (1930), its western boundaries never extending beyond 118° E, and the Nansha Islands and the Huangyan Dao are not included at all within the territories of the Philippines prescribed by the aforesaid treaties. The Philippines' constitution and laws, for example the 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, the 1968 Act to Define the Baselines of the Territorial Sea of the Philippines, and the 1974 Treaty of General Relations and Protocol between the United States and the Philippines, all reaffirmed the territories of the Philippines as specified by the above-mentioned treaties.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Philippines pushed for territorial expansionism and occupied 8 islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands. In June 1978, the Philippines promulgated the Presidential Decree No. 1596 to make an illegal claim on a group of islands and reefs - they designated as "Kalayaan Island Group" - of China's Nansha Islands. The Philippines also revised, in 2009, its territorial sea baselines act to brazenly include a group of islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands as well as the Huangyan Dao as part of its territory, in an attempt to make its illegal occupation legitimate and permanent. All these acts of the Philippines were seriously in violation of the uti possidetis principle.

To deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, the Philippines exacerbated tensions in a way that escalate and complicated the disputes between the two countries in the South China Sea, through unilateral irresponsible acts there such as stepping up illegal construction, stirring things up, exploring oil and gas resources, and detaining fishermen. Following its illegal occupation of a group of islands and reefs in China's Nansha Islands, the Philippines made attempts to occupy them permanently and legitimize its illegal occupation, including enlarging islands, setting up military facilities, building port airports, and enforcing administrative set-ups. The Philippines also blew up the Chinese marks that indicate China's sovereignty over the islands and reefs, and had an old warship grounded at China's Ren'ai Jiao, attempting to further encroach on relevant islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands. The Philippines extracted oil and gas resources in the disputed sea areas in the South China Sea, and in the traditional fisheries there for Chinese fishermen, they detained, abused and shoot Chinese fishermen dead, in attempts to impose its maritime claims through unilateral actions on the Chinese people and the Chinese government. On April 10, 2012, the Philippines' warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar intruded into the relevant waters of China's Huangyan Dao, where they forcefully harassed the Chinese fishing vessels and fishermen on board who were operating normally in the waters, and treated the Chinese fishermen inhumanely - including exposing them to sunlight naked for a long time, in a deliberate act that led to what would be known as the "Huangyan Dao Incident".

The Philippines' misrepresentation of the subject matter of arbitration when it knows perfectly well that it is the very party that violated international law, and that it has no right to submit for arbitration over related disputes, is an abuse of the rights that the Convention grants a contracting state, and a gross violation of the "good faith" principle of international law. In the final analysis, it is downright the Philippines that has done harm to the international rule of law.

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