The Philippine government for the first time participated in ASEAN-India Eminent Persons’ Lecture Series in New Delhi, India to gather support and debunk observations that third party arbitration was contrary to the so-called Asian way of settling disputes. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Evan P. Garcia discussed country’s principled position on the rule law and the developments in the West Philippine Sea and the country’s arbitration case against China.
Undersecretary Garcia also pointed out that the Philippines’ arbitration case against China on the South China Sea was fully consistent with international law.
Explaining the Philippines’ efforts to seek better clarity on the issues involved in the West Philippine Sea through the legal track, Undersecretary Garcia said arbitration was provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and that resort to the rule of law allowed small countries “to stand on an equal footing with wealthier and more powerful States, confident in the conviction that right prevails over might.”
“It has been claimed also – almost as gospel truth – that Asians are against submitting their disputes to international legal process. Singapore’s Ambassador at large Tommy Koh pointed out that this is incorrect, citing that Southeast Asian countries have a positive track record of referring their disputes to the international legal process,” said Undersecretary Garcia.
Among the cases brought by Asian states to international courts are the Preah Vihear case between Cambodia and Thailand, the Sipadan and Ligatan case between Indonesia and Malaysia, the Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh case between Malaysia and Singapore, and the Myanmar – Bangladesh maritime boundary delimitation case.
Undersecretary Garcia also cited India’s leading role in advancing the rule of law through its respect for the ITLOS decision on its maritime delimitation case with Bangladesh.