“(T)he only thing we can really do is to call on our friends and treaty partners to provide the muscle to our stance as a free nation and it is really only America that can provide the muscle we need to keep the “bully” China at bay.”
by Ducky Paredes
by Ducky Paredes
Maritime challenges are likely to be high on the agenda of US President Obama’s visit to Asia next week. The trip has been considered by a number of observers as a vivid manifestation of US concrete commitment in its “pivot” strategy for the region to hedge against an increasingly aggressive China. Whether it’s simply sheer coincidence, an international conference titled “Maritime challenges to ASEAN and prospects of SCS dispute resolution” is scheduled in Myanmar on April 24.
The one-day event gathers international experts on the South China Sea (SCS). Interesting enough, the conclusion of the event will reveal the convergence of viewpoints among participants, which deserve our keen attention. These ideas, if realized, would compliment very much to the region, especially, to the Philippine position on the West Philippines Sea issue.
The participants of the Conference will see that maritime disputes have emerged as a major source of tension and instability in Asia-Pacific including the South East Asia region.
In order to realize the prospect of building the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) into a peaceful and prosperous community, the Association needs to bridge differences and unite strengths to work out a durable solution to the problem, set up a mechanism to maintain good order at sea, ensure non-occurrence of tension which might lead to armed conflicts.
The so-called “nine-dash line” maritime boundary claimed by China clearly lacks international legal basis and is bound to clash with international laws, including UNCLOS-1982. The claim has earned widespread international criticism and has been a major obstacle to dispute settlement efforts in the region. The region has also been alarmed by increase in intensity of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The recent establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) by China in the North East Asia has been severely criticized. The proposed ADIZ risks fueling tension among countries in the region. Any attempt to impose another ADIZ or similar feature in the SCS South China Sea could lead to widespread provocation and more seriously disturb peace in the region resulting from miscalculation and misinterpretation.
Negotiations and multilateral involvement in maritime disputes settlement has become a viable and desirable option for parties concerned. The option requires a gradual and calibrated approach, from less to more contentious and complicated issues. Under current circumstances, cooperation efforts should focus on safety of navigation and over-flight, marine environmental protection, marine scientific research, maritime search and rescue and combating transnational crimes. International arbitration should be considered to be another preferred option, which some members of the ASEAN might utilize to protect its territorial integrity.
It is necessary for the ASEAN and China to formulate a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) which has been perceived as China’s delaying tactics. The Sultanate of Brunei which chairs ASEAN is expected to play its central role to unite the Group and bridge differences among parties concerned in the regional maritime disputes.
The ASEAN should make concerted efforts at fast-tracking the establishment of a mutually-agreeable group of experts and eminent persons to oversee the drafting of the guidelines for a CoC; seriously consider the establishment of relevant institutional mechanisms to enforce any future agreed-upon CoC.
While moving to seek fundamental and long-term solutions, the parties involved must assure the maintenance of stability and status-quo, avoid the use or threat to use force, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and would adversely affect peace and stability in the region.
The ASEAN’s existing regional mechanisms and frameworks concerning settlement of disputes in the South China Sea should also be fully utilized. Initiatives and new maritime cooperation models such as the ASEAN Maritime Forum, Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum and most recently, the 3-claimants meeting mechanism (between Vietnam Malaysia and the Philippines) should be institutionalized in support of the ASEAN mechanism. The ASEAN should serve as a venue for parties to the disputes and other interested players to exchange views and understanding of maritime issues and work towards solutions to maritime challenges.
While some may doubt the feasibility of the agreed ideas, it should be remembered that with joint and concerted efforts, convergence of viewpoints of nations in the region and enhanced and concrete commitment of the US, the “bully” would have to think twice before taking adventurous activities in the near future.
To our “friends” in the Left, referred to as the “active” sector, the military weakness of our country, results from our natural tendency to seek peace in all our dealings with other nations. Sadly, militarily, the Philippines is a pushover for a resurgent China, which has already placed military installations within our borders in Panatag Shoal and the Spratlys. Thus, the only thing we can really do is to call on our friends and treaty partners to provide the muscle to our stance as a free nation and it is really only America that can provide the muscle we need to keep the “bully” China at bay.
Thus, instead of condemning the Unites States at every turn, an expected event during their President’s forthcoming visit, how about also a condemnation against China the bully, too? The “bully” in the present state of our affairs?
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An interesting event during the Obama visit will be the presentation of The Comet, a battery-powered Jeepney bult by an American company in the Philippines, which could also ne used as a multi-purpose vehicle in the U.S. and elsewhere, This is a vehicle designed from the ground up as a purely battery powered vehicle, which means that it will be lightweight and will recharge faster and be more affordable to maintain and use. In Pasig City, at the City Hall itself, one can pick up and use a battery powered “tutubi”, a battery-powered bicycle funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). All you need is to register as a “tutubi” user. which will give you a card that would release the “tutubi” from its secure parking slot. If I were still a teen-ager, I would have applied on line to be able to use the “tutubi” during the summer vacation from school.
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hvp 04.22.14Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at email@example.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.