201602.Commentary.ShahaniLeticia
Photo credit: Lila Shahani | From: isiswomen.org

Philippine-Chinese relations, between these two neighbors who have peacefully interacted with each other in the past, are both profound and complex because they have been based on people-to-people relations.  The Philippines, representing the smaller and younger culture, has been on the receiving end of Chinese culture and migration for centuries. With its ancient empires continuing into the People's Republic of China (PROC), and its organized systems of writing and learning, China has had a great impact on Philippine culture in a way not comparable to the impact of Philippine culture on Chinese culture (of which little is known). Think of how Chinese food has become the staple of ordinary Filipino cooking- lugaw, pancit, siopao. Or consider the countless intermarriages between the two peoples so that those who make the list of the richest Filipinos are majority Filipino-Chinese. Moreover, most Filipinos have a sprinkling of Chinese blood in them. Common Filipino words pertaining to family relationships, business, etc. are of Chinese origin- kuya, ate, tawad.   Such Chinese influence is not unique to the Philippines; it is widespread throughout the ASEAN region.

 With the conclusion of the oral arguments on the merits phase last month, the arbitration initiated by the Philippines against China finally moves into the endgame. Although China was given one final opportunity until 01 January 2016 to submit comments on the arguments and evidence presented thus far, it is not expected to do so. The Tribunal has announced commencement of deliberations and that it will decide the case next year.

The procedural victory that the Philippines scored in the preliminary jurisdictional phase affirms the relevance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to the South China Sea disputes especially with respect to its maritime aspects. The tribunal has determined that the 2002 Declaration of Conduct and similar regional agreements are not obstacles to the resort to Annex VII arbitration, and that to do so there is no need for prior negotiations on every specific issue brought for arbitration. Unilateral resort to arbitration on an issue that has not been resolved by the parties despite years of negotiations is not considered an abuse of rights in international law. China's insistence that such unilateral resort contravenes the coastal States' right to choose the means by which it should settle disputes has been dispensed with. 

presidentiables

2016 Philippine Presidential Aspirants.

In the run-up to the May presidential elections, candidates will be held to close scrutiny by the thinking members of the electorate. How well have have they thought out the major problems of the country and the potential solutions that can best serve the long-term interests of the Filipino people, instead of the expedient solutions or promises that can merely help get them elected?

The October 29 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration stating that it has jurisdiction over the case initiated by the Philippines against China was a landmark victory for the Philippines and a potential milestone for the international law of the sea. In a way, the decision gave some sense of vindication to the approach taken by the Aquino Administration in an attempt to put to rest the longstanding dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). However, while the early partial jurisdiction decision was very much welcomed, it is still too early to predict how the tribunal would decide on the merits of the case and how long that process will take. In addition, the Tribunal maintained that jurisdiction over seven of the fifteen claims made by the Philippines would still be decided in conjunction with the merits and one claim has to be further narrowed down and clarified. For now, the jubilation from the partial jurisdiction triumph gave a respite to the painstaking sacrifices made in pursuit of this legal approach. But when the dust settles, with an eye on winning the decision over the merits, the Philippine leadership should begin preparing how to make good use of its legal ascendancy in dealing with China pre- or post-merit decision.