A seasoned diplomat said the panel that went to The Hague in 2013 when the Philippines claimed its right to the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea cannot be considered an arbitration panel, noting it was just a paid Philippine panel handpicking persons to present the case.
In a video shown during an episode of “Tapatan sa Aristocrat” media forum in 2017, then Ambassador Rosario Manalo said the arbitration “was not set up correctly” as the tribunal calls for three parties – the two contending parties and the selection of an umpire.
“Philippines wanted it, eh ayaw ng China, voluntary eh. You cannot tell China, ‘Hoy, you have to do it’. No, it’s voluntary. So what did we do, we went and proceeded to set up an arbitration panel, that is not even arbitration panel. That’s just a Philippine panel handpicking the people who will render the very issue that we want at binabayaran iyon noong panahon nila (they were paid during their time),” said Manalo, who is former rapporteur of the 23-member Committee of Experts of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
“Eh ikaw ba naman kung babayaran ka at nandoon ka, hindi ba ibibigay mo iyong (If you are there and you are paid, won’t you give a) favorable position? That is the [issue] China is [questioning (hand gesture)]. Now, I am not trying – please understand – I am not trying to be a traitor to my country, I love my country, pero hindi tama? Sino ang may sulsol noon? Kayo na ang mag-draw ng conclusion, ano (Is it correct? Who initiated it? You draw the conclusion),” she added.
Manalo, said the Philippines going to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague in the Netherlands to challenge China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea was what the United Nations charter refers to as voluntary arbitration.
Arbitrations are “compulsory” only under a provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), but both the Philippines and China opted out of that provision, Manalo said.
“Which means hindi natin gagamitin iyong (we are not using the) compulsory arbitration. We didn’t want it, all right, without even us talking with the Chinese or wherever. Equally the same, the Chinese opted out of that provision. So both the Philippines and China cannot invoke compulsory arbitration under the Unclos because we both opted out,” she said.
The Philippines filed its case before the PCA in 2013 following a standoff between Chinese and Philippine ships at the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012.
The tribunal’s award ruled that China’s nine-dash line claim and accompanying claims to historic rights are invalid under international law. Throughout the proceedings, China was absent as it refused to recognize the case.
While the decision has brought world attention that the Philippines has basis on its claims on the Kalayaan Group of Islands, Manalo said “it does not bind anybody”.
“It’s just a position taken by the Philippines, and with the arguments we’re giving, ‘ito importante at bakit importante sa atin sa Pilipinas’ (this is important and why this is important to the Philippines). But that’s to me an opinion of a plus for us, but it does not bind China nor anybody else in the world,” she said.
Since arbitrations are voluntary, she said, there was no “arbitration” in the case filed by the Philippines since China did not voluntarily submit to it.
Last April 29, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte has reassured Filipinos that the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the hotly-contested WPS would not be compromised, even if China is the country’s “good friend.”
He insisted that he would maintain a non-combative stance to address the sea dispute with China.