WWIII in the making?
The possibility of a third world war as a result of heightened tensions between China and the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue was one of the fears expressed by participants in the forum on the WPS hosted by the Social Sciences Department last November 26, 2015 at the Carlos Dominguez Conference Hall (CDCH).
Organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the assembly brought to fore the issue on the WPS dispute, the principles guiding Philippine official policy, and the Philippine government’s efforts to protect the country’s interests.
Speaking before students and faculty of various higher education institutions (HEIs) in the city, DFA Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles C. Jose,who served as the main resource speaker, stressed that the WPS issueis a national issue that every Filipino ought to be familiar with, and that students have a special role in raising awareness and appreciation of the said issue.
During the forum, which also aims to solicit public support in the government’s efforts to settle the issue via legal and diplomatic channels, Jose cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the most potent of references, as the Philippines and China are among the signatories of the said document.
Jose reported that the Philippine government had initiated an arbitration case against China with the UNCLOS to settle the dispute in a legal way and to clarify issues on the maritime rights of both nations,particularly China’s historical rights or the nine-dash line, which is the basis for the China’s claim.
Despite China’s snub on the ongoing arbitration proceedings, the Philippine government is bent on pursuing diplomatic battles to establish Philippines’ rights over the disputed territories, Jose added. The second round of oral arguments which commenced in November 24 is still in progress.
Jose emphasized that the Philippines’ position is clear: one of a defensive stance-protect and champion our rights through legal measures even in the face of China’s government rebuking authority and decisions of the UNCLOS. He cited reports of China’s reclamation activities, including incidents of encroachment within the Philippines economic zone, blockage and driving away of fishermen with water cannons, among others.
Jose highlighted the importance of resolving the maritime dispute through peaceful means. “The Philippines envisions the diplomatic and legal tracks as crucial elements in reaching a long term and durable solution to a pressing international issue,” he said. He clarified that it is important to stress the country’s historic and socio-cultural connections with China and its people and that championing our right therefore is not a demonstration of our protest to China.