Disputes About Corals: Mischief Reef part2
In a previous article, Mischief on Mischief Reef, one of the ongoing projects became a done deal allegedly with a string attached – a joint Phil-Sino oil exploration ( called the Joint Marine Survey Undertaking or JMSU in short) in the Spratlys Islands, which is now eyed as the next Senate probe. A flashback to the Mischief Reef episode:
Click map to enlarge
A Shopping List
As the belligerent rhetoric escalates (Armis bella non venenis geri – War is waged with weapons, not with poison.), Paranaque Representative Roilo Golez, former PN officer, urged government to acquire a squadron of fighter planes to back up its claim on the Kalayaan Islands. Golez proposed the acquisition of 18 multirole fighters like the Israeli KFIR jets costing $7 million each equipped with the latest weapons such as missiles capable of 20 miles range and smart bombs.
The proposal may have had an eye on the AFP modernization plan, but dismissed as mere bravado. The AFP modernization, however, was a live project, 15-year program of the administration that surveyed prices of military hardware (March 1999):
Aegis type destroyer – $1 billion; armament: Tomahawk cruise missile, Harpoon ship-to-ship missile, phase array radar.
F15, F16, F/A18 jet fighter = $100 million
B2 - $2.1 billion
B52 bomber plus support tankers & craft - $7.5 billion
Aircraft Carrier, complete, aircraft not included - $20 billion
Apache helicopter - ??
Patrol boat - $3 million (2nd hand)
Frigate - ??
Submarine, mini, (ala Israeli Dolphin class) modified capable of carrying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads (weapons not included) - ??
The stuff is what chief-of-staffs dream of, and that’s exactly its ending --- a dream.
The de facto Chinese occupation and construction on the
House Bill No. 3216 which seeks to amend Republic Acts 3046 and 5446, the laws defining the Philippines’ maritime borders, has been approved on second reading on mid-March 2008, and was up for approval on third and final reading. When Rep. Antonio Cuenco announced that the House of Representatives abruptly halted deliberations on House Bill 3216, a measure that delineates Philippine territory in the
House bill 3216 redefining the country's archipelagic baselines won't be acceptable under international law because the new baselines would encompass islands not actually possessed by the country and outside of the archipelago, said Henry Bensurto, secretary general of the Commission on Maritime and Oceanic Affairs Secretariat, of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In particular, the measure identified at least six base points (structures built on isles to mark a state's claim) that the country did not actually possess, It's a baseline that will have difficulty being recognized under international law, Bensurto said.
Under UNCLOS, an archipelago is allowed to draw straight archipelagic baselines that should not include islands outside of the archipelago. Islands outside of the archipelago, such as the Kalayaan Group of Islands and the Scarborough Shoal, should be delineated through the method of normal baseline under the principle of the "regime of islands,'' Bensurto said.
By excluding these islands from the baseline, the Philippines isn't dropping its claims over them since the basis for these claims, Presidential Decree 1896, would remain in effect even if a new baseline law is passed. The baseline would be the “reckoning point'' for the delineation of the extended continental shelf (ECS), the seabed beyond the 200-nautical mile continental shelf Bensuerto said.
The acronym UNCLOS stands for United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It has something to do with our territorial sovereignty. During the era of sailing ships, a nation’s sovereignty extended up to three miles from the shoreline – the range of cannons at the time. When modern battle ships of World War I mounted cannons capable of hurling shells 12 miles, the territorial sovereignty was extended to 12 miles. However, our Constitution defined our territory to conform to the Treaty of Paris concluded with the Spanish-American War of 1898. The boundaries will be modified by UNCLOS.
The International Hydrographic Bureau defines the South China Sea as the body of water stretching in a Southwest to Northeast direction, whose southern border is South Sumatra and Kalimantan and whose northern border is the
The Spratly islands are coral, low and small, about 5 to 6 meters above water, spread over 160,000 to 180,000 square kilometers of sea zone with a total land area of 10 square kilometers only. Many of these islands are partially submerged islets, rocks, and reefs that are little more than shipping hazards not suitable for habitation. The islands are important, however, for strategic and political reasons, because ownership claims to them are used to bolster claims to the surrounding sea and its resources. The area is rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas.
Several countries have claims in the area. These claims are based upon internationally accepted principles extending territorial claims offshore onto a country's continental shelf, as well as the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The 1982 convention created a number of guidelines concerning the status of islands, the continental shelf, enclosed seas, and territorial limits, the most relevant to the disputed Spratlys:
Article 3, which establishes that "every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles";
Articles 55 - 75 define the concept of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is an area up to 200 nautical miles beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea. The EEZ gives coastal states "sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil..."
Article 121, which states that rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.
The establishment of the EEZ created the potential for overlapping claims in semi-enclosed seas such as the
In late 1998 the presidents of
In late November 1999 officials of ASEAN agreed to draft a regional code of conduct to prevent conflicts over the
In January 2000 photographs of Mischief Reef in the
On 4 November 2002 the Governments of the Member States of ASEAN and the Government of the People's Republic of
In September 2003 representatives of the
In March 2005, the national oil companies of
Suggested confidence-building measures among claimant countries include joint research and development in the Spratlys. Among the suggestions to enhance the development of the
Mischief Reef is part of the
The Philippine government first put forth informal claims to Kalayaan in the mid-1950s. Philippine troops were sent to three of the islands in the Kalayaans in 1968, taking advantage of the war situation in the
Philippine claims on the Spratly Islands
While the Philippine claim to the
Tomas Cloma and the
It is a generally accepted practice in oceanography to refer to a chain of islands through the name of the biggest island in the group or through the use of a collective name. Note that Spratly (island) has an area of only 13 hectares compared to the 22 hectare area of the
A second argument used by the
In the mid-1970s, the
The Mischief Reef incident of 1995 was the first time for
The two sides agree to promote cooperation in fields such as protection of the marine environment, safety of navigation, prevention of piracy, marine scientific research, disaster mitigation and control, search and rescue operations, meteorology, and maritime pollution control. They also agree that on some of the above-mentioned issues, multilateral cooperation could eventually be conducted.
The dispute erupted anew in late October 1998 (see Winks_Blinks blog, Mischief on Mischief Reef) when the Philippines discovered that China was expanding the structures on Mischief Reef, using armed military supply ships.
The two sides did meet in March 1999 in
The Philippines publicly urged ASEAN to issue a statement at its Hanoi summit (December 1998) to call on China to respect international laws and co-operate to foster regional peace and stability.(31) ASEAN avoided dealing with the China-Philippine dispute in public, but an internal ASEAN report criticized China for actions not compatible with the UNCLOS and the China-Philippines code of conduct. This criticism was validated by
The most significant gain the
In the year 2000, Scarborough Shoal became another point of tension in the territorial disputes between the
Scarborough Shoal or what
The Geopolitical Context of the Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal Disputes
In order to understand the apparent lack of regional and international support for the Philippine position in its dispute with China, it is instructive to put the dispute in the geopolitical context of the disputes.
China/United States: At the strategic level, post-Cold War U.S. policy toward Asia in general and China in particular has been in disarray, choices ranging from "engagement" to "containment," but the United States had difficulty choosing and maintaining a particular policy, in terms of both its bilateral relations with China and the role it wants China to have in the East and Southeast Asian regions.
Putting pressure on the
The Chinese vision of a post-Cold War order for
China/Philippines/United States: After
Because the Philippines does not have the resources to modernize its air and naval forces to a level that they can credibly match a future Chinese show of force, it has pressed for third party arbitration, including mediation by the United States. Indeed, much to
The Manila headlines about yet unverified reports of alleged “sellout” by the
“There’s concern on external issue about
Daley informed Yap that the reported joint exploration and development of resources in South China Sea between the
Detained military rebel leader-turned opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV succeeded to a certain degree to draw the
Based on media reports, Trillanes asked his colleagues in the Senate to look into the allegations where the Philippine government supposedly agreed to this loan package offered by
Opposition Rep. Roilo Golez earlier called attention to an article in the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review criticizing the agreement as a “sell-out” on the part of the
Wain claimed that the agreement gave legitimacy to
He said the agreement violated the spirit of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of the Conduct of Parties as it was concluded without consultation with other countries claiming the Spratlys. He noted that
According to Golez, oil exploration companies have estimated that the Spratlys hold about 200 billion barrels of oil worth $20 trillion at present prices.
Meanwhile, the bill defining our territory to comply with UNCLOS deadline in May 2009 is hanging in limbo, paralyzed by an unsigned Chinese note received by the Philippine Embassy in
UNCLOS contains mechanisms to aid in the settlement of the Spratlys conflicting claims.
Articles74 and 83 says that when there is disagreement concerning the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone (art74) or continental shelf (art83) the states must try to reach an agreement under art 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
Parties to the Law of the Sea are obligated to accept arbitration of their maritime disputes under Part XV of the Convention.
Another non-violent method recently tried successfully is joint development, as the precedent set by
If an amicable solution to the conflicting Spratlys and Paracels claims are not done, the Thucidides solution will result – the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.