Thousands of Filipinos have made it very clear that China forcibly prohibiting fishing by Philippine vessels within the Philippines’ waters is an antagonist growing worse. Filipinos are both hungry & increasingly furious.
“Delivering on even small promises is more important than making dramatic and generous promises that may not become real. It is time to close ranks among ASEAN members and complete promises, make cooperative agreements on trade, security and mutual support.
“Fighting with Vietnam and Malaysia plus prohibiting fishing by Philippine vessels within the Philippines’ waters is a recipe for extreme volatility and as the population gradually learns more about this, they will never again buy a thing from China and the mood for war will grow and be worsened by every future incident. “
That’s the summary of a straw poll conducted in the Philippines and in Indonesia as America slides through its meltdown and its President Trump breaks all the rules and tips the scales toward an American financial collapse during a war with China. “You can only print your own money for so long before somebody calls it fake,” said a lawyer from Jakarta who also complains about America using South East Asia as a garbage dumping zone.
by Melissa Hemingway
The most important issues to the fishermen along the coastline of the West Philippines can be summed up in a paragraph.
The Tribunal has decided China has interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration at Reed Bank; China purported to prohibit fishing by Philippine vessels within the Republic of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and yet China protected Chinese poachers and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.
Finally, China intrusively constructed installations and artificial islands at Mischief Reef, inside Philippines territorial waters without the authorization of the Philippines, “arguably delivering the most egregious affront to the Philippines since WWII with the exception of the Americans running Filipino kids in sex trafficking syndicates and leaving so many 12-year-old pregnant filipino girls,” says a civil rights lawyer in Manila.
The extraordinary thing is that most Filipinos FPM.news interviewed from May through July 2020 do not know the details of the July 2016 Tribunal Arbitration Award to the Philippines, “but once these details were explained they became even angrier,” reported one of the survey captains.
File Photo: Filipinos demonstrate in Manila against China’s malevolence against Philippines Fishermen Photo Credit: Video Capture from YouTube. See Youtube Video below courtesy AP.
The purpose of this article is not to stir the pot on the issues between the two sides but to try to illuminate the matter correctly for the two sides. Please read carefully the excerpt from the Tribunal Award to the Philippines as an appendix to this article.
The people of China do not know the truth of the aggression their government has delivered against Filipinos. Extraordinarily, ordinary Filipinos don’t either.
The decision of the Court of Arbitration was not won by the current government and the decision came to light in the midst of a change of government in the Philippines.
Somehow the precise meaning of the award to the Philippines was completely missed in the noisy government transition in Manila in 2016 and the subsequent drift by President Rodrigo Duterte toward Beijing, which has recently reversed 180 degrees, or is that just an illusion? The country seems to be of one mind but the leadership says it is going both ways.
“China’s failing to make good on its many promises and its persistent attacks on Filipino fisherman, perhaps the most crucial frontliners in the country during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, has created harsh feelings about that one. Filipinos need to eat or they will die regardless of the COVID-19,” says Karinna Angeles, a nurse working in a small Philippines hospital.
A Manila businessman put it this way as he sat with his lawyer contemplating bankruptcy. “The Philippines has completely lost the ball but there is no reason why we cannot win the ball back and an interim compromise reached with China.
“President Duterte may think he has the country under his totalitarian control,” he continued, “and even believe the pollsters who have so much fear they make stuff up to tell the guy, but a sick starving country being bullied by China and being bullied by its own President, is not going to be fenced in and locked down to just starve and die in isolation from the alleged leader and his alleged governance,” opined the business man who said he will be killed if identified, as his lawyer nodded.
How? China needs the Philippines and its other ASEAN neighbours and they need China. Interim cooperation without prejudice to final positions needs to happen fast. People need to eat.
“South Asia needs to stop quarreling and unite or face decimation. The current pandemic and the poverty that is sweeping across all of Asia is going to take its toll. Solidarity is the only way ahead, but China is in the way of that happening. By the same stupidity that held a whistleblower down in Wuhan, China has screwed up the South China Sea arbitration in one of the biggest historic [gaffs?] of all time,” said a Barangay Captain in Nueva Vizcaya in the Cagayan Valley of the Philippines, on condition of anonymity.
Comments in the FPM.news survey came from many people who were obviously angry but also either uninformed or misinformed. “It’s important to read the document,” suggested a survey captain.
One extremely serious problem with the award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration of 12 July 2016 in the matter of the Philippines versus China is that in absolute terms, nobody has read the document yet, talk a blue streak about its content.
That includes the mainstream media which continues to claim the arbitration discredited China’s ownership claims.
The Tribunal did no such thing.
The Tribunal did however challenge without a presumption of bad faith that China’s actions subject of the complaints of the plaintiff where in fact unlawful and that China’s claims as territorial waters, those that conflicted with other nations, were pure folly.
Compromising on the South China Sea conundrum is crucial to moving forward but it is also imperative for teh currebt environment to boil down to a calm.
“There are Philippines fishermen arming themselves to defend against militia attacks and they will sink attackers say a few fishermen gathered on a Zoom feed from La Union in the Philippines, even of the Filipino Mayor / President Duterte will do nothing,” says a seafarer in Agoo who conducted the local survey forFPM.news on the Luzon west coast.
That China owns Islands in the economic zones of other nations is historical fact. China is not alone in this unusual position but so far is the only country in the world that cannot work out a suitable relationship with the neighbours.
Blocking fishing vessels from their free passage in their own nation’s territorial waters is pure and simply piracy.
This thinking is an insult to Xi Jinping and Colleagues
Stupidity is found in many government edicts and policies around the world, but in the case of China trying to restrict the operation of vessels in their own flagged national waters is a first prize gaff. While China believes that it can stop Philippines fishermen from fishing in their own waters, there is no end to the antipathy.
There is no end to the conflict China created. Never. China has become a sore that is building hate that coaches the rest of the world to buy into the “China Virus Theory” of the ‘sociopath in the White House’ (according to his niece Mary Trump). There is no coming back from this for many generations. Stupidity.
“The people of Malaysia and the Philippines as well as Indonesia need to eat, China. Stealing their fish and preventing their fishing is putting us all in trouble,” says a doctor in Ifugao Province of the Philippines.
“Now we have North America and England making war on us all with trade tariffs and garbage dumping and need to join hands to survive as the racists in the West see their chance to clean out their competition in Asia. The people need to stand up and demand their governments stop this from happening.”
Appendix to this Article:
Partial Excerpt From The South China Sea Arbitration
In particular the decision of the Tribunal, in the matter of The Republic Of The Philippines Vs. The People’S Republic Of China, The Hague, 12 July 2016
c. Chinese Activities in the South China Sea
In its Award of 12 July 2016, the Tribunal considered the lawfulness under the Convention of various Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Having found that Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal and Reed Bank are submerged at high tide, form part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China, the Tribunal concluded that the Convention is clear in allocating sovereign rights to the Philippines with respect to sea areas in its exclusive economic zone.
The Tribunal found as a matter of fact that China had
(a) interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration at Reed Bank,
(b) purported to prohibit fishing by Philippine vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,
(c) protected and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal, and
(d) constructed installations and artificial islands at Mischief Reef without the authorization of the Philippines.
The Tribunal therefore concluded that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
The Tribunal next examined traditional fishing at Scarborough Shoal and concluded that fishermen from the Philippines, as well as fishermen from China and other countries, had long fished at the Shoal and had traditional fishing rights in the area.
Because Scarborough Shoal is above water at high tide, it generates an entitlement to a territorial sea, its surrounding waters do not form part of the exclusive economic zone, and traditional fishing rights were not extinguished by the Convention.
Although the Tribunal emphasized that it was not deciding sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, it found that China had violated its duty to respect to the traditional fishing rights of Philippine fishermen by halting access to the Shoal after May 2012.
The Tribunal noted, however, that it would reach the same conclusion with respect to the traditional fishing rights of Chinese fishermen if the Philippines were to prevent fishing by Chinese nationals at Scarborough Shoal.
The Tribunal also considered the effect of China’s actions on the marine environment. In doing so, the Tribunal was assisted by three independent experts on coral reef biology who were appointed to assist it in evaluating the available scientific evidence and the Philippines’ expert reports.
The Tribunal found that China’s recent large scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratly Islands has caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and that China has violated its obligation under Articles 192 and 194 of the Convention to preserve and protect the marine environment with respect to fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species.
The Tribunal also found that Chinese fishermen have engaged in the harvesting of endangered sea turtles, coral, and giant clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea, using methods that inflict severe damage on the coral reef environment. The Tribunal found that Chinese authorities were aware of these activities and failed to fulfill their due diligence obligations under the Convention to stop them.
Finally, the Tribunal considered the lawfulness of the conduct of Chinese law enforcement vessels at Scarborough Shoal on two occasions in April and May 2012 when Chinese vessels had sought to physically obstruct Philippine vessels from approaching or gaining entrance to the Shoal.
In doing so, the Tribunal was 11 assisted by an independent expert on navigational safety who was appointed to assist it in reviewing the written reports provided by the officers of the Philippine vessels and the expert evidence on navigational safety provided by the Philippines.
The Tribunal found that Chinese law enforcement vessels had repeatedly approached the Philippine vessels at high speed and sought to cross ahead of them at close distances, creating serious risk of collision and danger to Philippine ships and personnel.
The Tribunal concluded that China had breached its obligations under the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, and Article 94 the Convention concerning maritime safety. d. Aggravation of the Dispute between the Parties In its Award of 12 July 2016, the Tribunal considered whether China’s recent large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratly Islands since the commencement of the arbitration had aggravated the dispute between the Parties.
The Tribunal recalled that there exists a duty on parties engaged in a dispute settlement procedure to refrain from aggravating or extending the dispute or disputes at issue during the pendency of the settlement process.
The Tribunal noted that China has
(a) built a large artificial island on Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation located in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines;
(b) caused permanent, irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem and
(c) permanently destroyed evidence of the natural condition of the features in question.
The Tribunal concluded that China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating or extending the Parties’ disputes during the pendency of the settlement process.
Future Conduct of the Parties
Finally, the Tribunal considered the Philippines’ request for a declaration that, going forward, China shall respect the rights and freedoms of the Philippines and comply with its duties under the Convention.
In this respect, the Tribunal noted that both the Philippines and China have repeatedly accepted that the Convention and general obligations of good faith define and regulate their conduct.
The Tribunal considered that the root of the disputes at issue in this arbitration lies not in any intention on the part of China or the Philippines to infringe on the legal rights of the other, but rather in fundamentally different understandings of their respective rights under the Convention in the waters of the South China Sea.
The Tribunal recalled that it is a fundamental principle of international law that bad faith is not presumed and noted that Article 11 of Annex VII provides that the “award . . . shall be complied with by the parties to the dispute.”
The Tribunal therefore considered that no further declaration was necessary.