The Philippines will know the verdict of an international arbitral tribunal on the complaint it filed against China on July 7, a source said on Wednesday.
Senior diplomats and foreign policy experts are holding marathon meetings at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to map out Manila’s strategy once the ruling has been handed down, the source, who participated in the private meetings, said.
The Philippines filed the memorial before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2013 after Chinese ships refused to withdraw from the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal, which is being claimed by China and the Philippines. The shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The government argued that China’s nine-dash-line claim over almost the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) should be declared invalid because these are contrary to the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
While the decision is widely expected to favor the Philippines, there are some questions on how Manila will implement the ruling because Beijing had repeatedly said that it will not honor the tribunal’s ruling.
Lauro Baja, former Foreign Affairs undersecretary for policy and Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations, said the country should be prepared for different post-arbitration scenarios.
“Even before the decision is out, we should have plans already in case we win, in case we lose, and in case we win some and lose some,” said Baja, who had been visiting the DFA lately.
“I believe what will occur will not be a zero sum decision. If this happens, it may open some windows for talks,” he said.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Tuesday finished a two-day crucial meeting aimed at easing tensions in the disputed waters.
Four members of Asean have overlapping claims — the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
Meanwhile, China said it has the support of over 40 countries.
China has been roundly slammed in the international community for its supposed
militarization and bullying in the disputed waters.
“Some friendly countries that care about China come to seek truth from us. After knowing the merits and demerits of the relevant issue, many countries including Sierra Leone and Kenya…make their voices heard to uphold justice,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said in a news briefing in Beijing late Tuesday.
“This also tells us that a just cause gains great support and people with a sense of justice can tell right from wrong,” he added.
Lu warned “a handful of countries which attempt to sling mud at China” to quit labeling themselves as “the international community.” He said these countries are covering up the facts by manipulating public opinion.
“Particular countries insist on launching negative publicity campaigns or even creating tensions in this region for selfish gains and in disregard of the well-being of regional countries and people,” he said.
“They go all out to instigate certain country in the region to go back on its own words, break rules and undermine international rule of law under the excuse of ostensibly ‘upholding the rule,’ confound right and wrong and manipulate public opinions to smear China,” he added./ MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO,