PH to tribunal: Vietnam boosts case vs China

Paterno Esmaquel II
In the 3,000-page document it recently filed against China, the Philippines shows a united front with Vietnam

UNITED FRONT. A Vietnamese child peers from Vietnam and Philippines flags while waiting for the arrival of Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, Philippines, on May 21, 2014. Photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – In a show of unity, the Philippines affirmed the support of Vietnam in its historic case over the South China Sea, as Manila submitted to an arbitral tribunal a 3,000-page document to demolish Beijing’s claims.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague, The Netherlands, had asked the Philippines “to comment on Vietnam’s position paper” on the case.

“We said that we consider Vietnam’s statement very helpful. It confirms that the tribunal has jurisdiction and that the Philippine claims are well founded,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a media briefing Tuesday, March 17.

In its position paper on December 11, 2014, Vietnam said it rejects China’s claims over the disputed waters, which Hanoi calls the East Sea, and which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Like the Philippines, Vietnam argues that the 9-dash line, the demarcation that China uses to claim the South China Sea, is baseless under international law. In its case against China, the Philippines cites the so-called Constitution for the Oceans, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China, on the other hand, argues that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case in the first place.

Vietnam’s position, Jose explained, “supports our claim that China’s claim of so-called indisputable sovereignty is without basis under UNCLOS.”

The Philippines commented on Vietnam’s support as part of the 3,000-page supplemental memorial, or pleading, that Manila filed before the arbitral tribunal at the PCA on Monday, March 16. This document answers the tribunal’s 26 questions on the case, including one on Vietnam’s position paper.

Forging strategic partnership

The Philippines affirmed Vietnam as the two countries try to forge a strategic partnership – a stronger, wide-ranging alliance in the face of China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.

Experts say strategic partnerships remain vaguely defined, but agree these involve shared objectives to promote regional security, among other things.

“Strategic partnerships are also evidence that some countries are ready to align against a perceived threat to the regional order. This cooperative activity, premised as it is on shared values, makes it easier for other regional states and external stakeholders to come on board to prevent any one power from upsetting established norms,” explained Julio Amador III, an Asia Studies visiting fellow at the East-West Center in Washington, in a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler.

In an interview with Rappler in May 2014, Vietnamese ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong pointed out that the Philippines and Vietnam “are on the same side.”

“We’ve got to be united, and stand united. We will win,” Duong said.

While the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping claims, Duong also said the two countries can share resources in the disputed waters. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.