By Erick San Juan
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters.”
“China owns sovereignty and jurisdiction over the related sea area, seabed and subsoil.”
“The sovereignty of China over the South China Sea and related rights and jurisdiction are well-grounded from both historical and legal perspectives.”
The statements mentioned above are the usual pronouncement of the Chinese government when the issue of the disputed islands in the South China Sea is being raised.
If all the claimants will protest that the said contested area is theirs under historical and legal perspectives, a grim scenario is in the offing.
As in the case of the Philippines, our government filed a diplomatic protest (last April 5) before the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, asserting that the sprawling portion of the Spratlys that we are claiming — called the Kalayaan Island Group or KIG — is an integral part of our territory, and we have “sovereignty and jurisdiction” over that area.
The diplomatic protest was filed due to the reported March 2 “harassment” by two Chinese patrol boats on the Department of Energy oil exploration vessel in the Reed Bank near the Spratlys.
Furthermore, the Philippines questioned China's sweeping claims laid out in its "nine-dotted line" claim over the entire South China Sea submitted to the U.N. in 2009. Actually, Malaysia and Vietnam had earlier filed their protests against China's claim. Meaning, this "nine-dotted line" claim over the entire South China Sea by Beijing is really out of tune in the eyes of the rest of the claimants.
But then again, the usual line (aka rhetoric) from Beijing that they will abide by the rules of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and committed to maintaining peace and stability in the area. And that they will assure all of us of a peaceful resolution to any disputes. But why the harassment? Is this doublespeak? Just asking.
In a paid ad by The South East Asian Sea Foundation at the Manila Times dated April 18,2011 entitled "The South China Dispute: Smaller Nations need to Raise Their Game", It even advised the Philippines to join Vietnam,Malaysia and Indonesia in asserting that the Spratly's don't deserve EEZ's or continental shelves of their own or at least deserve little of these maritime zones. The nations concerned must never forget that "united they stand,divided they fall."
In a civilized world of diplomacy, we all want peace and security. No room for bloody confrontations, that is why the diplomatic protest was filed before an international body like the United Nations to resolve all disputes in a peaceful way.
The undercurrents between Beijing and the rest of the ASEAN members seems to be growing instead of easing the tensions as what is being stated in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We are not an alarmist but this could be a wake-up call to PNoy’s administration to play his Beijing card well. Or we can all be dragged into a regional conflict of a possible proxy war between China and Uncle Sam.
As of this writing, the supposed Beijing visit of PNoy next month was put off (again?) and was set tentatively in the later part of this year. The reason was not told by the Palace and the rest of us will be in the wait and see mode as transparency is again being clouded with perceived problems now faced by this administration.
Let us all be vigilant because the old practice of secrecy seems to be the agenda of the government.