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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Foreign policy concerns may not be an election issue; Tribunal's decision is no "piece of paper"

Legal experts say Arbitral Tribunal’s decision is not a mere “piece of paper”

MANILA – The Arbitral Tribunal’s decision in favor of the Philippines last July 12,2016 cannot be dismissed simply as a “piece of paper” far different from the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte in one of his “Talk to the Nation” episodes.

Atty. Howard Calleja, a noted lecturer and resource person said the decision has been recognized by the international community.

“It has been recognized by the international community with the exception of China,” Atty. Calleja said over the weekly Tapatan sa Aristocrat public affairs forum Monday morning. He added China’s refusal to take part in the proceedings is not an issue. It was China’s decision either to join or participate in the proceedings as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) where both the Philippine and China are both signatories.

Another lawyer, De La Salle University’s Antonio A. Ligon said decisions may be considered just a piece of paper, it cannot just be set aside because it has been recognized by the international community.

“While China may not have participated in the proceedings, it continued to issue statements on the proceedings and its stand on the issues involved. The Tribunal considered all these statements as objections,” the De La Salle University professor said.

UP Professor Clarita R. Carlos, former National Defense College of the Philippines (NCDP) president said the arbitral tribunal’s decision, just like many resolutions from the United Nations Security Council, will not hold because without force, it’ll remain a piece of paper.

“I have been teaching International Politics for over 50 years. Never mind the beautiful workers in the UN Resolutions. Look at what’s happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis, how many resolutions has the United Nations issued but without force, it will always be ‘Might is right,’” she said.

She added the Philippines should shift gears in the absence of the long-delayed Code of Conduct and come up with a regional fishing agreement.

Atty. Calleja said President Duterte should issue statements in favor of the Philippines. He agreement a multilateral agreement with all parties involved in the South China Sea would be to the Philippines’ favor and strengthen partnerships with the international community towards a peaceful resolution of the issues involved.

“President Duterte should not have a defeatist attitude because nobody talks of war. Although there may have been some military conflict, there was no all-out military conflict,” Atty. Calleja added. He called on the Chief Executive to retract his statements against the interests of the Philippines.

Professor Carlos said China began its construction of its structures in the South China Sea in 1993.

“Spy satellites, including those of the United States, saw they structures. I have been shown the resolution from the satellites that could even show plate numbers of moving vehicles but they did not see the ongoing developments at the South China Sea because the United States’ attention was on something else,” Professor Carlos added.

Atty. Rodel A. Taton, Dean of San Sebastian Graduate School of Law said a leader should have a firm resolve on protecting the country’s sovereignty and has the capacity to build and develop close relations with the international community.

“While some may say foreign policy may not be an issue in the coming elections, I believe it should be because of the concerns surrounding the West Philippine Sea,” Atty. Taton said. (Melo M. Acuña)

Screen shot from Tapatan sa Aristocrat (Melo M. Acuña)

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