Manila braces for Chinese sanctions

MANILA — The Philippines must be prepared for economic sanctions and other forms of diplomatic reprisals by China after it filed a memorandum before the UN challenging Chinese claims over the West Philippine Sea, experts from the academe said Sunday.

“Our decision to move ahead despite Chinese protestation and their alleged offer of ‘carrots’- – disengagement from certain occupied features and not imposing an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) in the West Philippine Sea – means that we may enter a dangerous stage of confrontation,” Prof. Richard Heydarian of the Ateneo Center for Asian Studies told Manila Bulletin on Sunday.

Heydarian said much will depend on how the Philippines translate its legal battle into “a springboard to politically pressure China” to uphold its commitment to UN Convention on the Law of the Seas and the Declaration of a Code of Conduct in South China Sea under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Military support from external partners such as the US will also be crucial in preventing a limited potential war with China over disputed maritime features,” he said.

Heydarian said that although the filing of the memo risks permanent estrangement with China, “it also holds the potential to rally the region especially like-minded countries like Vietnam and Japan, and the broader international community behind the Philippines, and in this way pressure Beijing to explore a diplomatic compromise with the Philippines in the future.”

But Prof. Jay Batongbacal of the UP Institute of Marine Affairs said the two countries seemed to be locked in by their hard stances.

“There seems to be very little opening, if any, for the two sides to each an amicable settlement given their public and diplomatic positions,” Batongbacal said.

Former Philippine ambassador to the UN, Lauro Baja, was more optimistic.

“Relations between states should never reach the point of no return,” he said.” Diplomacy never ends. The challenge is to open and or keep lines of communication open especially between the leadership of both countries.”