PH will suffer due to case vs China, says expert

MANILA — Despite gaining moral support from other countries, the Philippines would suffer because of the arbitration case it filed against China, a Macau-based expert said.

In a commentary he wrote for The Diplomat, Dingding Chen, assistant professor of government and public administration at the University of Macau, said China is “unlikely to be deterred by unfavorable international opinion.”

“The arbitration case against China launched by the Philippines has attracted a lot of global media attention and global public opinion seems to support the Philippines’ case. However, a closer analysis reveals that the Philippines might in the end suffer from this arbitration case,” Chen said in a commentary dated July 23.

“It was indeed a mistake for the Philippines to file an arbitration case against China, no matter how necessary it felt given the circumstances,” he added.

The Philippines has filed a case against China’s expansive maritime claim, which covers about 90 percent of the potentially oil and gas-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

China has refused to answer the complaint and insists that the territorial dispute be settled through bilateral negotiations and not through international arbitration.

Early this month, the Philippines sent a high-level team to The Hague, Netherlands to present arguments for its case, which seeks to determine whether the international tribunal has jurisdiction over the issue.

If the Philippines obtains a favorable ruling from the arbitration court, it will be given the chance to defend its maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Chen, whose research interests include Asian security, said there are three reasons why the Philippines will lose in the long run even if the arbitral tribunal rules in its favor.

He said there is no assurance that the Philippines would win the arbitration case it brought before the arbitration court at The Hague, Netherlands.

“Actually, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is being very careful now as it tries to determine whether it has the necessary jurisdiction in the first place. This is not good news for the Philippines,” Chen said.

“Part of the reason is that the Court understands the huge implications of its decision for not only China, but also for the international law of the sea in general,” he added.

Because of China’s refusal to join the proceedings, Chen said a ruling on the case would “put the tribunal and international law in a very awkward position” because there is no effective means to enforce it.

“So in this case, if the Philippines wins, it still loses and if it loses, it will lose big time,” the professor said.

The second reason cited by Chen dealt with the possible impact of the arbitration case on Chinese investments.

“It is certain that many Chinese firms, especially state firms, will think twice before they purchase any serious stakes in the Filipino economy,” Chen said.

“Even if the Philippines can win a case against China, in the end it might not be worth it, considering the economic costs of such a win, not to mention the potential costs of a military conflict,” he added.

The third reason, according to Chen, has something to do with the lack of assurance that the United States (US) will provide military help to the Philippines in case a conflict escalates.

“Although the Philippines is a U.S. ally, this does not mean that the U.S. will offer military assistance if a ugly territorial conflict occurs between China and the Philippines,” Chen said.

“Even with U.S. assistance, it is doubtful that the Philippines could win a potential conflict against China,” he added.

Chen also belittled the moral international support that the Philippines might gain, saying it “means little in the realm of international politics.”