Just because we are evidently weaker militarily ranged against China, we will just offer them a cooperative venture to exploit the islands of Spratlys? What a very stupid proposition. And to think that it came from the mouth of Duterte's foreign secretary made it worse.
Tomorrow, the United Nation's tribunal will release its ruling on the case filed by our government against China. The case is based on the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, of which the Philippines and China are signatories. The Convention entered into force for the Philippines on 16 November 1994.
Our position is simple--those islands belonged to us based on Article 57 of UNCLOS which establishes the breadth of the exclusive economic zone agreed upon by every nation as basis for claiming sovereignty over lands and islands from the baselines. It says "Breadth of the exclusive economic zone: The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured."
The provision is very clear---eezs shall "not extend beyond nautical miles from the baselines" because it is the measure of the "breadth of the territorial sea." As defined in the UNCLOS, the territorial sea is that belt of sea, including archipelagic waters, beyond the land territory of the state. The sovereignty of the coastal state, according to UNCLOS, extends to the air space, as well as to its bed and subsoil. (Article 2 of UNCLOS)
Reading the UNCLOS, the size of the territorial sea starts from the baseline up to 12 nautical miles. The baseline is the low water along the coasts, so for us, starting at that point up to a distance of 12 nautical miles--that's our territorial sea.
So the breadth of our territory by which we can exert sovereignty is about 212 nautical miles from the baseline.
Anyway, I cannot seem to rationalize what Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay said that the UNCLOS ruling will not touch on the subject of "sovereignty" when this phrase is specifically why the UNCLOS was established and every coastal state was made to sign for---the convention specifically establishes the exercise of sovereign rights of coastal states.
Article 48 clearly establishes that.
Now, in this case the stand of the Philippines is very simple---these islands being claimed by China is ours and therefore, we exercise sovereign rights over these islands because they are within the exclusive economic zone as defined by UNCLOS. Just look at the map and it clearly shows those islands are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
If UNCLOS submits and favorable ruling, the Philippine government should not squander the opportunity and assert its rights over these islands.
The government, particularly Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte should seriously consider its next steps because the entire international community is observing our moves and if we move that seriously undermines the credibility and integrity of the UNCLOS, this does not just affect our standing--but it likewise affects the very integrity and credibility of the UN as an arbitral body.