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. 


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.

The world economy has long been dominated by institutions heavily influenced by the West and its allies. However, a new player in the form of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has arrived at the scene, causing a stir and sparking debates and discussions on its implications for the world economy and global order in general.

AIIB was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 during a series of visits to Southeast Asian countries. This Chinese-led financial institution has the main goal of providing loans to finance infrastructure development that would facilitate economic growth.