No Limitations

Why China will not bring the Spratlys issue to the United Nations


Based on applicable international maritime and related laws, China knows that if she petitions the United Nations International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to affirm  her dubious claim that she owns everything in the South China Sea aka West Philippine Sea — her chances of winning are about as likely as having a snowfall in the Sahara desert.

Both Courts have proper jurisdictions to settle sovereignty issues between nations  regarding marine territories — such as those concerning the Spratly and Paracel islands.

Let’s imagine  what most likely would happen if  China does take her case to the International Court of Justice  and the representative of China — let’s call him Mr. Lee — is before the Court headed by the Presiding Judge. Consider this scenario:

Judge:  “Please inform this Court of the basis  for your claim that the entire South China Sea aka West Philippine Sea belongs completely to the People’s Republic of China?”

Mr. Lee: “Thank you, your honor. Our claim  is based on the historical fact that this entire area has belonged to us since the Han Dynasty.”

Judge: “How do you intend to prove your case?”

Mr. Lee: “I will present to this Court an almost two thousand year old Han Dynasty map that indicates the limits of the Han Dynasty kingdom.”

Judge: “Let’s  assume for purposes of discussion  that  the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and other surrounding countries were provinces or part of the Han Dynasty during its time even if the map you hold may just actually be a navigational map which does not really define the limits of the Han Dynasty. Now  my study of China’s history indicate that the Han Dynasty lasted from 206 B.C. To 220 A.D.  Is this correct?”

Mr. Lee: “Yes your honor.”

Judge: “I  assume Mr. Lee that you are familiar with Alexander the Great, the young Macedonian king who conquered much of the ancient world.”

Mr. Lee: “I am, your honor.”

Judge: “At the time of his death in 323 B.C., Alexander’s kingdom included Greece, Syria, Persia now known as Iran, Egypt and a part of India. Are you aware Mr. Lee that Macedonia, Alexander’s country — is now known as the Republic of Macedonia?”

Mr. Lee: “If you say so your honor.”

Judge: “Good! You appear to know your history. I assume you are also familiar with the Roman Empire which existed for over a thousand years.”

Mr. Lee: “Thank you your honor, I do read history.”

Judge: “You are then aware Mr. Lee that at its height, the Roman Empire included most of Europe and parts of Africa and Asia.”

Mr. Lee: “I am aware, your honor.”

Judge: “Now Mr. Lee, since the time of Alexander, the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty — through the course of time and historical events, various  independent countries have emerged in Europe, Africa and Asia — which now have their own respective territories. This is a reality which  we all have to accept, wouldn’t you say?”

Mr. Lee: “We cannot deny reality, your honor.”

Judge: “Now Mr. Lee, another undeniable reality is that Alexander’s empire, the Roman empire and the Han Dynasty kingdom are no longer existent — am I correct in my observation?

Mr. Lee: “You are correct, your honor.”

Judge: “Now Mr.Lee, in all candor, do you seriously believe that if the Republic of Macedonia and the Italian government were to come before this Court and petition us to affirm that they own the territories of these now independent  countries because they were once a part of Alexander’s empire or the Roman empire — that we would be persuaded to grant these petitions?”

Mr. Lee: “I understand what you are getting at, Judge — but most of what we are claiming as ours is marine area and not land.”

Judge: “The Spratlys and the Paracel islands are not land? Anyway, isn’t it a fact that China is a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which she ratified on July 6, 1996 thereby agreeing to be bound by its provisions — and part of which is that anything within 200 miles from the baseline of a country belongs to that country?

Mr. Lee: “China did agree to those provisions at a time when it was not yet aware of the far reaching consequences of UNCLOS to her national interests.”

Judge: “I will not mince my words Mr. Lee. What you mean is that at that time, the world, including China, was not yet aware, that vast deposits of oil and natural gas were to be found within the territorial limits of neighboring countries. Now because of this awareness, even if China knows she is trespassing and violating international law, she is using the coercive might of her size, military or otherwise — to grab these enormous reserves of petrowealth from the territories of her smaller, weaker, poorer neighbors — who badly need these assets to improve the plight of their own people.

Postscript:  In view of all the facts and existing applicable law,  the likelihood  is that the UN court will find China’s petition to be without merit.

Notwithstanding requests from the Philippines,  neighboring countries and the United States  to bring West Philippine Sea sovereignty issues to the United Nations, China has steadfastly refused to do so. Instead, it is constantly involved in mind games, using scare tactics, insisting that everything in the whole West Philippine Sea is theirs and that this issue is non-negotiable.

By so doing, the gigantic oil hungry  dragon seeks to condition the national minds of her neighbors  to forcibly accept inequitable bilateral settlement agreements — without United Nations or United States involvement. The Philippines, Vietnam and other neighbor countries must not fall into this trap. They should unite and create an alliance and insist — with the aid of the global community, with military means if necessary — that China should respect their rights and leave their national patrimony alone.

The most loudly applauded part of President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s State of the Nation speech was his strong affirmation that what belongs to the Philippines stays in the Philippines. Everyone understood his meaning:  The Philippines will stand firm against China’s bully tactics and mind games in trying to grab our energy and marine resources.

What a big difference  to have a trustworthy President who provides moral leadership and looks after the interests of the nation instead of one ready to sell out the country’s patrimony for personal gain.

Note: The California State Bar honors Attorney Ted Laguatan as one of the best lawyers in the country. He is one of only 29 U.S.  lawyers officially certified continuously for more than 20 years as an Expert Specialist in Immigration Law. For communications: (San Francisco area)

455 Hickey Blvd. Suite 516, Daly City, Ca 94015 Tel 650 991 1154 Fax 650 991 1184 Email

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Anonymous

    mr laguatan should not forget that during the time the US Forces military bases was in the Philippines, this communist china and others didn’t dared to claim any island in the spratlys, ok? and why are they doing it now, ha? the Ph. is very weak militarily and relied on the protection of the US Forces based on those military bases; the US clark airforce base was the largest outside the US mainland, did you know that?
    communist china wouldn’t dare to challenge that high tech airforce system, what they have are “copied” system which may not even enough to fight India, one of its enemy, ha, ha, ha! the communist chinese don’t invent on their own, they just copy from others, ok? they copied US movies in dvd and sell them for a $1 in Shanghai port, did you know that? thery send “poisoned” milk and candies for filipinos to buy in the PH. that is on record, ha? you trust them, you’re an idiot!

  • Anonymous


    • Badajosnon Macabaian

      sana nga po.

  • Anonymous


  • It's Time

    Maging cautious na lang tayo mga pre… ito ang plano ng china sa mischief reef (na nasa loob ng ating 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone o EEZ) sa mga susunod na mga taon…

  • Anonymous

    sorry mr Ted Laguatan but “Macedonia, Alexander’s country — is now known as the Republic of Macedonia?”” is not correct., The Republic of Macedonia is NOT Macedonia Greek region…

  • Marlou Wang

    Wow!, I’m impressed! Okay itong article ni Atty, Laguatan. Dapat mabasa ng karamihang pinoy.


    Dapat maging eye opener ito sa mga Filipino at mundo… Idadaan kasi ng China sa military might ang pagkuha sa Spratly ng Pilipinas na para naman talaga sa Pilipinas…mayaman ito sa deposito ng langis at syang mag-aangat ng ekonomiya ng Pilipinas tulad sa middle east. Ayaw kasi ng China bumili satin ng langis kapag nabuksan na ito kaya idadaan nila sa pagsakop at digmaan….Ganun ka-ganid ang China at dapat paghandaan natin ang digmaang ito. Upgrade na natin ang AFP at full support tayong mga Filipino sa modernization ng AFP bago maging huli ang lahat.

  • Lee Soleil

    china is claiming west phillipine sea as part of the ancient han dynasty, their is no difference like the nazi german, when hitler want to rebuild and claim the holy roman empire. so want whant happend is to invade by their might and military power against the weak countries that provoke world war 2. The same as the japanese before that war, they are in a fast phase of their economy ang hungry for oil, what they did was start invading tha manchuria and the entire asian pacific coast. china is doing something sounds familiar… greed for you…what belong to juan must stay to juan. 

  • Pinoy Installers

    Do we really need to refer to the past when the present international agreement defines clearly what is yours and what is mine?

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Laguatan, let us face the reality of the situation, China will extract the oil in the territorial waters of the Philippines by hook or by crook as evidenced by it installing the biggest oil platform and deepwater oil rig named Ocean Petroleum 981. Correct me if I am wrong it seems like China has made the determination that nothing can stop it now except it’s own people but if it is successful this could unite them towards the same goal
    and the current regime will have a new lease in it’s dirty rotten ways..

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos