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Pacific Islands Society

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Domestic Non-Profit Organization
Security Challenges in the West
Philippine Sea
By H.E. Enrique A Manalo
Published: May 15, 2013

The Philippines is a mid-ocean archipelago at
the eastern edge of Southeast Asia, comprising
of around 7,100 islands, and, using the
UNCLOS definition of an archipelagic state, has
a larger maritime area than land. Being broken
up into numerous islands, the Philippines has
the 5th longest coastline in the world.
Located at the crossroads of the Pacific Ocean
and the South China Sea, the Philippines has
always maintained a policy of open and friendly
engagement with the rest of the world. Its
foreign policy is guided by its four main pillars:
(i) national security; (ii) economic diplomacy;
(iii) assistance to nationals; and, (iv) public
The Philippines is an active member of the 10-
country Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN). Our engagement with ASEAN,
individually and as an institution, is a
cornerstone of Philippine foreign policy.
The Philippines actively participates in
multilateral fora, such as the United Nations and
other international organizations, especially on
issues affecting our core interests, such as
international peace and security, economic
development, social development, human
rights, migration, and climate change.
The country is also active in regional fora, such
as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) forum, Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM),
ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia
Summit (EAS). It is also a Dialogue Partner of
the Pacific Islands Forum. Its participation in
these regional fora spans a wide array of
cooperative activities aimed at enhancing all
our peoples social and economic well-being
from fisheries cooperation and marine
environment protection, interfaith dialogue,
trade and investment promotion, anti-piracy and
enhancing overall maritime security in the
In ASEAN, the Philippines is committed to the
goal of achieving an ASEAN Community by
2015. The Philippines firmly believes that
ASEAN should be a rules-based regional
community that abides by regional security
mechanisms (such as the Declaration of the, if
not a, Code of Conduct on the South China Sea)
and adheres to the primacy of international law.
In ASEAN, the Philippines was the prime mover
in the establishment of the ASEAN
Intergovernmental Commission on Human
Rights (AICHR) and the recent adoption of the
ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights.
Through ASEAN, the Philippines participates in
a regional free trade area, an economy
community, a framework to prevent financial
crises, and a wider trade network involving
China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India,
Australia and New Zealand.

Hi s Excel l ency Enri que A. Manal o i s the
Ambassador to the Court of Sai nt James
from the Republ i c of the Phi l i ppi nes.

Ambassador Series
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 15, 2013
The Phi l i ppi nes i n Southeast Asi a

Undoubtedly, geography dictates that the
Philippines must continue to be an active
participant in an increasingly integrating and
dynamic Southeast Asian region, and, more
broadly, in East Asia and the Pacific region.

There is much to be gained by countries in our
part of the world to move towards greater trade
and investment liberalization, increasing
international production networks and multi-
faceted economic integration.

Of course, the prosperity of the region will be
under threat if the environment necessary for
continued growth and development is impeded
by rising tensions, instability, or worse, conflict.
The threat becomes more palpable if the
environment itself is destroyed by the
unsustainable use of natural resources and the
ensuing effects of climate change.

The Philippines primarily maintains the view that
the regions continued prosperity and economic
development is a function of the maintenance of
peace and stability in Southeast Asia in a
wholistic sense.

Hence, it is useful to note that the ASEAN
region, and the wider East Asia, is a critical
focus of big-power strategic relations, multi-
polar security configurations, middle-power
engagement and their engagement with the

Apart from bilateral issues, one encounters a
US-Japan defense nexus, Chinas rise as a
major power, a growing ASEAN and the
positioning of ASEAN as strategically engaging
the bigger powers.

The Philippines values the importance of
engagement and peaceful dialogue in dealing
with security issues, both traditional and non-
traditional security threats, as these build an
atmosphere of trust and confidence among
countries, both those directly affected and
those at the periphery of the disputes.

The Philippines has a very real stake in the
regional institutional security framework, which
provide the channels through which countries
like the Philippines can affect and influence the
direction of the regional security environment
and its architecture.

By contributing positively to these institutional
processes, especially under the ambit of
ASEAN, the Philippines is helping ensure that
countries in the region are working together to
nurture an environment of economic dynamism,
sustainability, and managed regional security

Our key security concerns include [the Korean
Peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, and Transnational
Crime and Terrorism. On the latter, the
Philippines has been foresting cooperation with
its various partners to combat transnational
crime for more than two decades.]

We initially focused on dealing with the abuse of
narcotics and trafficking in illegal drugs.
However, with the expansion and diversification
of transnational crime to include terrorism, arms
smuggling, money laundering, illegal migration,
and piracy, and the highly organised nature of
such crimes, we have intensified cooperative
efforts to fight these crimes, including through
the establishment of regional training centres to
improve the capacity of law enforcement
authorities to combat these nefarious activities.

Terrorism remains a particular concern. For the
Philippines, the best way to combat terrorism
and extremism is to address its root causes,
namely poverty and the lack of empowerment.

Climate Change. Being one of the countries
most vulnerable to climate change, the
Philippines continues to be a staunch advocate
of efforts, at the national, regional and
international level, to effectively address the
effects of climate change. Our National
Framework Strategy on Climate seeks to create
a climate risk-resilient Philippines, that is able to
build its adaptive capacity, increase the
resilience of its natural ecosystems and
optimize mitigation opportunities. [The political,
legal, and security implications also need to be
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 15, 2013
examined and discussed in climate change

West Philippine Sea. On the West Philippine
Sea (WPS), the Philippines recognizes that the
maintenance of peace and stability in the West
Philippine Sea is of paramount importance to
regional growth and stability.

Permit me to go into a bit more detail on this

The WPS/SCS is an extremely significant body
of water. It is the shortest route from the North
Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean and the
second busiest international sea-lane.
reserve estimates for the entire WPS/SCS region
vary. A 1993/1994 estimate by the US
Geological Survey estimated the sum total of
discovered reserves and undiscovered
resources in the offshore basins of the SCS at
28 billion barrels of oil.

Natural gas might be the most abundant
hydrocarbon resource in the WPS/SCS. Most of
the hydrocarbon fields explored in the
WPS/SCS regions of Brunei, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the
Philippines contain natural gas. In April 2006,
Husky Energy working with the Chinese
National Offshore Oil Corporation announced a
finding of proven natural gas reserves near the
Spratly Islands.

Moreover, about ! of the worlds maritime trade
passes through it. The WPS/SCS is, therefore,
one of the most important bodies of water in
economic and strategic terms. Any conflict or
disruption in the WPS/SCS will undoubtedly
affect the economic and national security of all
the surrounding countries, northeast Asia, and
global trading nations such as the USA and EU.

Other than its hydrocarbon resources, the
WPS/SCS is also a rich breeding ground for fish
and an important migration path for species of
tuna. The Kalayaan Island Group alone (an area
in the WPS/SCS labelled in international maps
as Dangerous Grounds) is a coral-rich
province with a 600-1000 square kilometre area
that hosts breeding grounds and shelters for
fish and other marine organisms.

The WPS/SCS has been considered by some as
a major flashpoint in Asia. Assertions of
sovereignty by various means were made by
the different claimants and were heightened by
the Philippines discovery of the Chinese
structures in the Mischief Reef in 1995. The
Philippines and China later on issued a bilateral
statement that rejected the use of force and
peaceful settlement of their bilateral disputes.

To defuse tensions, there were suggestions that
constant dialogue was needed with respect to
the WPS/SCS. The dialogue would not only be
on a bilateral basis but on a multilateral level.
Thus, intense diplomatic initiatives were
undertaken by the Philippines, the ASEAN
countries, and China towards reducing tensions
in this area by signing, in November 2002, a
document articulating peaceful principles
towards a mutually beneficial solution to the
WPS/SCS issue, known as the Declaration on
the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,

While only a declaration, the DOC is a landmark
document between ASEAN and China. It is the
first political document jointly issued by ASEAN
member countries and China on the WPS/SCS
issue. It is an instrument to enhance favorable
conditions for a peaceful solution of differences
and disputes among countries concerned.
Since its signing, it has been a modus vivendi
that has kept peace and stability in the area,
enabling countries in the region to concentrate
on economic cooperation.
But the question
remains whether the DOC is sufficient to
maintain peace and stability in a rapidly
changing political and economic environment.

One provision of the DOC is that ASEAN and
China should jointly work towards the adoption
of a regional code of conduct in the SCS. In
2004, an ASEAN-China Joint Working Group
was established to study and recommend
measures to translate the relevant provisions of
the DOC into concrete cooperative activities
that will enhance mutual understanding and
trust. The working group has met [a number of
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 15, 2013
[However, differences between ASEAN
and China still need to be threshed out.]

As the DOC, by itself, does not address the
disputed claims, we should also turn to
UNCLOS, particularly to the means allowed
under UNCLOS such as arbitration, to clarify
and define the disputed from the non-disputed

Defi ni ng the Di sputed from the Non-
Di sputed Areas

The Philippines had long advocated a new
regime of the oceans, to take into account the
peculiar geography of mid-ocean archipelagos
and to emphasize that this entity is a unity of
land, water, and people. The waters that seem
to separate our 7,100 plus islands actually bind
us and has had a deep impact on our culture
and history as a maritime nation.

As one of the first signatories to the 1982 United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS), the Philippines has been a firm
advocate of the rights and concomitant
responsibilities of states parties to the UNCLOS
over extended maritime jurisdictions. I must
emphasize that these extended maritime
jurisdictions are only those that are allowed by
the UNCLOS and general principles of
international law.

Under the UNCLOS, a coastal state now has a
12 nautical mile territorial sea, a further 12
nautical miles from the edge of that territorial
sea as its contiguous zone, and a 200 nautical
mile exclusive economic zone and juridical
continental shelf, calculated from its baselines.
In the case of the continental shelf, its area may
be further increased up to a maximum of 350
nautical miles from the baselines should it be
proven to exist based on technical, geological
and other scientific evidence.

Since 1995, however, China has been
assertively claiming its sovereignty over certain
features in the WPS/SCS which are integral
parts of the Philippines and well within our
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and Continental

In 1995, China set up a fisherman shelter in a
submerged feature Mischief Reef an
underwater feature located less than 115
nautical miles from Palawan, and well within the
Philippines EEZ, by putting up steel pylons and
pouring cement on the sensitive coral reefs. It
later refurbished these so-called fishermans
shelter to include permanent, multi-level
octagonal structures and a radar system.
Philippine fishermen could not venture nor fish
in that part of our EEZ since Chinese authorities
on the reef would apprehend and detain them.

In May 2009, China officially made known to the
whole world, through a note addressed to the
UN Secretary General, in protest to the joint
submission by Malaysia and Viet Nam for a
claim to an extended continental shelf in the
South China Sea, that it had indisputable
sovereignty over the islands in the South China
Sea and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over
the relevant waters as well as the seabed and
encompassed within 9-dashed-lines
along the entirety of the South China Sea in an
accompanying map.

In April 2012, Philippine maritime patrol spotted
Chinese fishing vessels in Bajo de
Masinloc/Panatag Shoal (or Scarborough
Shoal), another underwater feature north of the
Kalayaan Islands or the Spratly Islands and
within 124 nautical miles from the Philippine
province of Zambales. When the Philippine
maritime patrol boarded the Chinese fishing
vessels, they found large amounts of corals and
sizeable quantity of giant clams and live sharks
in its compartments. All the other Chinese
fishing vessels in the area were also boarded,
and they all yielded certain marine endangered
species, corrals and live sharks. Several other
Chinese vessels arrived in the area and there
has been a standoff with our law enforcement
patrols since.

Since then, China has kept the Philippines from
enforcing our own laws in Bajo de Masinloc and
has demanded our exit from our own EEZ on
the grounds that they have sovereignty over the
entire South China Sea under the 9-dashed line
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 15, 2013

If China were to make good all of its claims, as
stated in its 9-dased-line approach, and
enforce a 200 nautical mile EEZ around all the
features in the SCS, it would technically own
the whole of the SCS, except for small zones off
the coasts of the surrounding states, according
to Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell in their
book Chinas Search for Security. But this
expanded maritime claim, or the 9-dashed-line,
clearly has no basis under both conventional
international law, particularly the 1982
UNCLOS, to which China is also a party, and
public international law.

Moreover, under UNCLOS, and using the
international principle of the land dominates
the sea, one cannot lay claim to significant
bodies of water without any title to the land.

The claim by China [has also been] contested
by Viet Nam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Even
Singapore has asked China to clarify publicly its
position on its 9-dashed line claim.

It has, therefore, been necessary, because of
Chinas actions, for the Philippines to continue
asserting our sovereignty over these issues,
peacefully and in accordance with the rule of

The Importance of UNCLOS

Almost thirty years ago on 10 December 1982,
in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 159 countries
including the Philippines signed the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS). On 08 May 1984, the Philippines
became the eleventh State Party to ratify the

Considered as the Constitution for the
Oceans, UNCLOS forms part of the body of
international law governing the rights and
responsibilities of nations big as well as small,
rich or poor, coastal and landlocked in their
use of the worlds oceans. It enshrines the
norms that determine the rights of States over
maritime areas and contains important
mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of
disputes on matters relating to the oceans.

The members of the Pacific Islands Forum are
all States party to the UNCLOS.

UNCLOS has never been more important for the
Philippines than today, when overlapping
maritime claims threaten as never before the
peace and prosperity in our part of the world.

The Philippines believes that the rules-based
approach in UNCLOS, together with the norms
in the UN Charter and international law, are the
way forward in addressing in a just, peaceful
and lasting manner the maritime disputes in the
West Philippine Sea.

The Rul e of Law

On 22 January 2013, the Philippines formally
notified China that it is initiating arbitral
proceedings against it under Article 287 and
Annex VII of the UNCLOS in order to achieve a
peaceful and durable solution to the dispute
over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The Note
Verbale contains the Notification and Statement
of Claim that challenges before the Arbitral
Tribunal the validity of Chinas nine-dash line
claim to almost the entire South China Sea
(SCS) and calls on China to desist from unlawful
activities that violate the sovereign rights and
jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982

Some salient points in the Notification and
Statement of Claim are:
1. The Philippines asserts that Chinas so-
called 9-dashed line claim that
encompasses virtually the entire South
China Sea/West Philippine Sea is
contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful.
2. Within the maritime area encompassed
by the 9-dashed line, China has also laid
claim to, occupied and built structures
on certain submerged banks, reefs and
low tide elevations that do not qualify as
islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of
the Philippine continental shelf, or the
international seabed. In addition, China
has occupied certain small,
uninhabitable coral projections that are
barely above water at high tide, and
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 15, 2013
which are rocks under Article 121 (3) of
3. China has interfered with the lawful
exercise by the Philippines of its rights
within its legitimate maritime zones, as
well as to the aforementioned features
and their surrounding waters.
4. The Philippines is conscious of Chinas
Declaration of August 25, 2006 under
Article 298 of UNCLOS (regarding
optional exceptions to the compulsory
proceedings), and has avoided raising
subjects or making claims that China
has, by virtue of that Declaration,
excluded from arbitral jurisdiction.

In this context, the Philippines is requesting the
Arbitral Tribunal to issue an Award that, among
Declares that Chinas rights in regard to
maritime areas in the South China Sea,
like the rights of the Philippines, are
those that are established by UNCLOS
(and consist of its rights to a Territorial
Sea and Contiguous Zone under Part II
of UNCLOS, to an EEZ under Part V, and
to a Continental Shelf under Part VI);
Declares that Chinas maritime claims in
the SCS based on its so-called 9-dashed
line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid;
Requires China to bring its domestic
legislation into conformity with its
obligations under UNCLOS; and
Requires that China desist from activities
that violate the rights of the Philippines in
its maritime domain in the West
Philippine Sea.

The Philippines believes that the Arbitral
Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and make an
award based on its Notification and Statement
of Claim because the dispute is about the
interpretation and application by States Parties
of their obligations under the UNCLOS. Article
287 (1) of UNCLOS provides that settlement of
disputes concerning the interpretation and
application of this Convention may be referred
by the Parties for resolution under Part XV of

Last February 19, the day before the 30-day
deadline to appoint its member to the Arbitral
Tribunal, China officially returned to the
Philippine Government the formal notification
and the statement of claims on which the
notification is based, in effect rejecting the
motion by the Philippines.

The rejection by China will not affect the arbitral
process and will proceed whether China gives
its consent to it or not. In fact, the 5-member
arbitration panel was formed last 24 April 2013,
in accordance with the process outlined in
Article 3, of Annex VII of the UNCLOS. The five
persons that have been appointed to constitute
the arbitral tribunal are:
Chris Pinto of Sri Lanka, who will serve as
panel president,
ITLOS Judge Jean-Pierre Cot of France;
ITLOS Judge Stanislaw Pawlak of
ITLOS Judge Rudiger Wolfrum of
Germany; and,
Professor Alfred Soons of The

Conti nui ng Di pl omacy

We are also continuing to pursue the political
track on the issue of the WPS/SCS, and, in this
regard, we are working closely with our ASEAN
colleagues on a Code of Conduct for the West
Philippine Sea/South China Sea. [We remain
convinced of the need for a binding Code of

Agreement has already been reached among
ASEAN member countries on the key elements
of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.
We are also very encouraged by the strong
expression of support from European countries,
including [the United Kingdom], for our position
regarding the peaceful resolution of the West
Philippine Sea/South China Sea issue.

Concl usi on

To conclude, the Philippines is slowly emerging
as one of the worlds most vibrant economies.
Pacific Islands Society Ambassador Series | May 15, 2013
Pacific Islands Society
PO Box 632 | Ebensburg, PA 15931 | USA
843.271.6891 ph web
Domestic Non-Profit Organization
Being in one of the worlds most dynamic
regions is also a plus.

In this context, the Philippines will continue to
strongly advocate the maintenance of peace
and stability in the region, through dialogue and
rules-based mechanisms, as the right
ingredients for nurturing growth, prosperity and
social development.

Editorial Note: On May 26, 2013, the content on this page
was updated to reflect corrections requested by The
Philippine Embassy in London to the original prepared
statement previously provided to the Pacific Islands
Society. All content in [brackets] represent changes from
the original statement published on May 15, 2013. The
revised statement now serves as the version of record.

1 J. Peter Burgess, The Politics of the South China
Sea:Territoriality and International Law, Security Dialogue
Volume 34, no. 1, March 2003, p. 7,,%20Politics
%20of%20the%20South%20China%2 Sea-
(Accessed on 3 May 2011).
2 South China Sea, Country Analysis Briefs, Energy
information Administration, March 2008,
(Accessed on 3 May 2011).
3 Ibid.
4 Alino, Porfirio M. & Quibilan, Christine C. (eds.) (2003).
The Kalayaan Islands: Our Natural Heritage. Quezon City:
Marine Science Institute, UP Diliman, p. 28.
5 Department of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Note on the
South China Sea, 3 May 2011.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Chinas note to the UN Secretary General CML/17/2009
of 7 May 2009,
(Accessed on 12 March 2013).

The views expressed are those of the author.