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Monday, May 27, 2024

Circle the wagons

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We need not defend our position on the territorial and maritime dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea all by our lonesome.

Seven years after the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal issued a ruling in favor of the country’s claim to a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the vital sealane, we’re on the right track in asking other countries to support us in our crusade.

We’re glad that no less than 16 European countries are supporting us in asserting our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.

In a joint statement issued on July 11, these countries— Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden unequivocally backed the Philippines’ territorial integrity in the busy waterway.

The embassies of the 16 countries cited the importance of the ruling, which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They believe it is “a significant milestone” in contributing to the maintenance of rules-based order and the settlement of disputes.

They are correct in pointing out that the 2026 arbitral ruling is “legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings, and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between parties.”

“The EU (European Union) reiterates the fundamental importance of upholding the freedoms, rights, and duties established in UNCLOS, in particular the freedoms of navigation and overflight,” the European nations said.

The 26 countries said they are committed to secure, free, and open maritime supply routes in the Indo-Pacific, in full compliance with international and “in the interest of all.”

We must thank the EU members for supporting the “swift conclusion of talks aiming at an effective” Code of Conduct between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China that is fully compatible with UNCLOS and also respects the rights of third parties.

After all, Beijing’s ‘so-called ‘nine-dash line’ is a blatant lie that is without any historical precedent or legal basis in international law.

Washington has also urged Beijing to “halt its disruption to states’ sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage natural resources.”

We are on the right track in circling the wagons and asking other countries to support us in our struggle to compel Beijing to recognize our claim to our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea based on UNCLOS, which China also signed.

Perhaps it might work. Or perhaps not at all. But we have international law behind us, and we should hammer on this point even before the United Nations General Assembly.

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