The award announced Tuesday by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on the South China Sea went beyond its legal powers and will eventually destabilize the Asia-Pacific region, a scholar has said here.
The ruling by the PCA is should be null and void since issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime demarcation are not subject to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), said Aamir Khan, a visiting faculty member at Beijing Dublin International College at Beijing University of Technology said in an op-ed published in China Daily last week.
"That the Philippines has camouflaged its case under the cloak of a generation of entitlements to islands does not hide the fact that its dispute with China is indeed about territorial sovereignty and maritime demarcation," said Khan.
He said Article 281 of UNCLOS stipulates that the convention applies only if the parties have not agreed on a settlement, while the Philippines has jointly issued a series of bilateral agreements with China and signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The Philippines will not benefit from the ruling as it will "only succeed in plunging its long friendly relations with the economic powerhouse to a nadir and lose the golden opportunity to develop its economy" as well as lose the chance to jointly develop disputed waters in the South China Sea with China, said Khan.
Also, the ill-founded arbitration may "open a can of worm," leading other countries to follow suit with filing abusive lawsuits, he added.
More alarmingly, Khan pointed out that the ruling will destabilize the South China Sea by encouraging military existence, taking the United States as an example, which deployed two aircraft carriers in seas east of the Philippines last month and started monitoring the South China Sea with guided-missiles destroyers.
"History provides ample examples of small incidents leading to major consequences," warned Khan. "The Asia-Pacific region, brought to its knees by Japanese aggression in World War II, has taken 70 years to rise again and achieve unparalleled economic growth. It will be heartbreaking to see this reversed."
Manila, despite gaining a closer relationship with the United States, may find that Washington's "pivot to Asia" strategy is not in line with its own long-term interests, said Khan.
The author cited China's Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai's recent remarks that the United States often misperceives China's efforts in maintaining its legitimate position as a move to challenge the super power's global dominance. He further cited the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative as other examples of how the country is misinformed of China's intentions.
There actually were better choices in front of the United States and the Philippines to help keep peace and stability in the Asia Pacific, said the author.
"Well-wishers of the United States will want it to resume the role of a 'wise leader' and jointly enact with China ... a more inclusive security structure to help maintain peace and stability in the region," Khan said. "And well-wishers of the Philippines would advise President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw its case before it is too late and return to the negotiating table," he added.