Hague ruling may lead to US, China power play | Global News

Hague ruling may lead to US, China power play

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 01:56 PM July 12, 2016

The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague which will be released Tuesday is akin to the “beginning of an end,” a Filipino security expert said.

“The case will end today but this will only be the start of an intensified power play between China and the US, the two opposing titans, eventually dwarfing the Philippines. And this will happen whoever wins in the case,” Chester Cabalza, a security expert and professor at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), told the INQUIRER on Monday afternoon.

Experts believe that Tuesday’s landmark ruling, which will be released at 5 p.m. local time, is likely to be in Manila’s favor.


READ: How will the tribunal verdict on PH-vs-China case be issued?


“After the ruling comes out, whoever wins, it won’t be about the case anymore,” Cabalza said. He said it will all be about what the US and China would do next.

Cabalza said that even before the ruling, both the US and China have already stepped up their information warfare. The two superpowers have also shown their military might.d

Cabalza also said whatever the decision of the arbitral court would be will test the mettle of President Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s chief diplomat, particularly his ability to morph into a regional leader.

“This will be a litmus test for the President. The world will be watching us,” said Chester Cabalza.

Cabalza said indeed, Duterte and his Cabinet must study the decision of the arbitral tribunal very well, as their next steps in the dispute will have far-reaching implications.

READ: #InquirerSeven FAQ about the Philippines vs. China arbitration case


“The decision will become key to unlocking alternative options for the new administration. It could either go for a convergence or cooperation in terms of diplomacy, economy, and defense, or it could opt for divergence,” Cabalza said.

Cabalza said that 2017 would particularly be significant, and challenging, for Duterte’s skills in diplomacy.

With the Philippines chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) next year, Manila will host the regional bloc’s 50th founding anniversary.

The Asean itself has grappled with the South China Sea maritime dispute, as four of its member nations have overlapping claims in the vast ocean where an estimated $5.3 million worth of trade passes.

These claimant countries are the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

Moreover, Laos and Cambodia, while non-claimants, are strong supporters of China.

Former President Benigno Aquino III had pushed for the adoption of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to allow the smaller claimant nations to protect their interests but he stepped down from office last June 30 with Asean and China nowhere closer to achieving the document.

Cabalza pointed out that as a realist, Duterte has shown a pragmatic approach to dealing with the South China Sea row, recognizing that China is “the giant neighbor with military might and economic prowess.”

“The President has to do something to assert his leadership. This is the best time for us to morph into a regional power. While we cannot yet have military might, we are strong diplomatically and economically,” Cabalza said.

He said Duterte could build on the legacy of Aquino who turned the Philippines into the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia and left a surplus of P1.5 trillion.

Aquino also brought the country back to the international stage, with his good governance campaign and his defiance of China’s expansionism in the South China Sea by lodging the petition before the United Nations arbitral court in 2014.

Cabalza said a sudden shift in the Philippines’ strategy in the South China Sea conundrum would make the country a “laughingstock,” especially after other claimant nations like Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as other countries, have thrown their support behind the Philippines’ case against China.

READ: Rody urged to study UN ruling carefully

Cabalza said that nothing precludes the Duterte administration from dealing with China bilaterally, “for as long as we assert our national interests.”

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He said that the administration could do “multiple diplomacy”—have a bilateral approach with China with regard to Scarborough Shoal and do multilateral talks in dealing with the Spratlys, to include the other claimant countries. RAM/rga

TAGS: China, PCA, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III, President Rodrigo Duterte, South China Sea, The Hague

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