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China Loses! UN Tribunal Rules in Favor of Philippines

Kalayaan Atin Ito group raises the Philippine flag on Pag-asa island last Dec. 31, 2015
Kalayaan Atin Ito group raises the Philippine flag on Pag-asa island last Dec. 31, 2015.

he problem with us Filipinos is we never seem to miss an opportunity—to miss an opportunity! Case in point: the recent ruling by the arbitral court in the Hague where the judges hearing the case unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines. It has been only a week since the decision was handed down yet it seems every Pinoy and his brother is itching for some kind of bilateral agreement with China.

We say DON'T DO IT! NOT YET! Now is not the right time. For starters, it is way too early. The effects of the ruling have not yet fully sunk-in as far as the Chinese and everyone else are concerned. At this point China still feels it has the upper hand. Wait a while for the repercussions of the United Nations (UN) decision to be felt by China.

Remember, no country, not even a superpower like the United States has been able to defy a UN ruling indefinitely. Here's another case in point: In 1986, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided in favor of Nicaragua in a case it brought against the United States of America. The U.S. was accused of conducting military and paramilitary activities inside Nicaragua in support of the Contra rebels. Like China, the U.S. disregarded the ICJ ruling and even blocked every UN Security Council resolution that called for its compliance. All the while the Reagan Administration continued to deny having any ties to the Contras. But world opinion was on Nicaragua's side. Having no success in the Security Council, Nicaragua brought its resolution before the entire UN General Assembly. On November 1986, the Assembly voted. Only the U.S., El Salvador and Israel voted against the resolution while the rest of the world sided with Nicaragua (it is worth noting that El Salvador's ruling junta, at the time, was receiving a significant amount of foreign aid from the Americans). Despite the U.S.'s initial defiant stance, it eventually succumbed to global pressure. Shortly thereafter, then-U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and later President Ronald Reagan himself admitted U.S. involvement in plans overthrow of the Sandinista Government of Nicaragua.

The point here is that even a small country can stand up to a global superpower if the rest of the world is behind it. The U.S. eventually came to the realization that continuing to defy the ICJ would tarnish its sterling reputation. It could not be seen as a country openly defying the rule of law. Eventually, the same thing will happen to China...but it won't happen overnight.

What the Philippines needs to do at this stage is to build global support. Instead of pandering to an arrogant Chinese regime, Filipinos should instead work to get as many countries as it can to affirm their support for the UN tribunal's decision. Only when China realizes that it is gradually being isolated as the entire world sees it's nine-dash line claim for what it is—a flimsy excuse to grab what legally belongs to other countries—it will mend its arrogant, belligerent and bullying ways.

The problem is if the Philippines makes a deal now, when the Communist Chinese still feel they hold all the cards, we could end up with a permanent, legally-binding agreement where China ends up with something, when it truly deserves nothing. If instead we simply wait while the entire world turns up the heat on China, we might get back all the lands that the UN says belongs to us without any strings attached.

Members of the youth group Kalayaan Atin Ito pose for a Facebook photo on Pag-asa island
Members of the youth group Kalayaan Atin Ito pose for a Facebook photo on Pag-asa island.

So President Rodrigo Duterte, hold off! Don't act too hastily. China would love nothing better than a bilateral deal with Manila as soon as possible. They are in an ideal bargaining position right now and they know that their position could slowly deteriorate over time—so they want a deal ASAP. Do not fall for it! Future generations of Filipinos will forever curse your name if you make a deal that ends up selling the country short. Published 7/19/2016

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