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Despite UNCLOS, world’s ‘most disastrous dangers’ still pertain to maritime issues – Locsin

/ 03:53 PM August 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Even with a globally-recognized “constitution for the oceans” in place, the “most disastrous dangers in our world today” still pertain to maritime issues,  Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.

Speaking at the 7th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law (AsianSIL) opening ceremony on Thursday, the foreign affairs chief particularly referred to issues concerning the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea.

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“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the coming into force of our constitution for the oceans: the [UNCLOS]. Despite near universal acceptance by 168 states parties, the most imminent and potentially the most disastrous dangers in our world today pertain to marine and maritime affairs — the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea,” Locsin said.

He was referring to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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The South China Sea is a vital economic sea lane in the Asian region.

The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims over the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, tensions in the Persian Gulf region have intensified after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal last year “with world powers and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports,” the Associated Press earlier reported.

The country’s top diplomat also pointed out that the world would have been “safer” if only “the greatest power on earth” had “led by the example” of supporting the UNCLOS.

Locsin made no mention of which country he was referring to but it can be noted that the foreign affairs secretary has earlier regarded the United States as the “greatest power in history” during a speech at the embassy celebration of the US Independence Day last July.

The US is not among the 168 state parties to the convention. But despite this, it remains to be the Philippines’ “only military ally” amid the ongoing maritime tension in the South China Sea.

READ: Locsin: US is and will remain PH’s only military ally 

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The US, which conducts freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, has repeatedly affirmed its readiness to fulfill its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines.

“The only cure for the uncertainty that gnaws at our sense of security — and invites us to prepare for war to find its opposite in peace — is the universal acceptance of international law,” Locsin said during his speech.

“Not in place of the national self-interest but to serve it better,” he added.

Dispute settlement

In terms settling territorial disputes, Locsin wondered if the pacta sunt servanda rule still holds relevance “when more states refuse to recognize let alone carry out judicial or arbitral awards they lost fairly and legally.”

“We may agree, we may disagree. But let us listen, let us learn from one another as scholars, as governments, as human beings, — and Asians,” he said.

“We have half of the world’s human resources to address these challenges. Surely there can be more creative and viable legal and political solutions drawn from the Asian experience of Western democracy,” he added.

The foreign affairs chief, meanwhile, underscored the principle of the pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept) rule which he noted is “enshrined” in the treaty on treaties, or the Vienna Convention.

“Adopted 50 years ago, it (Vienna Convention) codified bedrocks of acceptable international conduct we hold sacred today,” Locsin said.

“If only we all followed our treaty obligations in good faith, there would have been—there could have been—less war and suffering; less deceit and consequent cynicism about the possibility of right in international relations,” he added.

He further said that respect for the pacta sunt servanda would result in “less animosity.”

“If only we respected pacta sunt servanda in our obligations under UNCLOS, there would be less animosity with its greater likelihood of conflict,” he said.

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