With relevance to exploring options in resolving or managing maritime and territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Australian Embassy in Manila organized a lecture-forum on the Tonkin Gulf Agreements and the Antarctic Treaty System. The event was held last March 29, 2019 at the Foreign Service Institute, DFA Building in Pasay City. The audience was composed of junior foreign service officers, participants from other government agencies and think-tanks. Program Convener Aaron Jed Rabena and Research Fellow Lucio Blanco Pitlo III attended for Pathways. Key speakers were Professor Stuart Kaye, Director and Professor of Law at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, and Professor Nguyen Hong Thao, Professor of International Law at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and Vice Chair of the U.N. International Law Commission.

Prof. Kaye gave a lecture on the Antarctic Treaty System. He laid out the salient provisions of the treaty and how it evolved over time. The treaty, negotiated in 1959, promoted scientific cooperation despite competing territorial claims in the ice-filled continent. It also stipulated that Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only, prohibiting activities of a military nature. It did not, however, renounce or prejudice claims of parties. Under the treaty, a party can inspect any facility on request, a mechanism that promoted goodwill. Expeditionary personnel are subject to jurisdiction of the home country. This also applies to the increasing number of tourists that come during the brief summer. The treaty provides for decision making through consensus, effectively providing each party a veto power. Prof. Kaye noted that concern over possible overexploitation of fisheries resources in the Southern Ocean led to the Convention of Antarctic Marine Living Resources negotiated in the 1970s. It adopted conservation measures through quotas, vessel monitoring system and catch certification.

Prof. Thao, on the other hand, discussed the Tonkin Gulf Agreements. He described the Tonkin Gulf, its resources and navigational value, the four rounds of negotiations, legal bases for the claims of both Vietnam and China, and historical antecedents, notably the 1887 Sino-French Agreement. He outlined the key points of both the maritime delimitation and the fishery cooperation agreements signed by both sides. The fishery agreement provided for a common fishery zone (CFZ) and a transitory fishery zone (TFZ). Respective parties monitor and inspect their fishing vessels in the CFZ. The zone was drawn based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit. Meanwhile, both sides agree to gradually reduce fishing activities of their respective fleets in each other’s exclusive economic zone and to provide relocation and livelihood for fishers affected by the delimitation.