Word war over Ayungin

Posted by watchmen
April 22, 2024


By Ade S. Fajardo

What is EEZ?

EEZ stands for “exclusive economic zone.”

Under the Unclos, or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the EEZ is an area of the ocean extending up to 200 nautical miles, or 370 kilometers from a country’s coastal baseline.

What can a country do in its EEZ? Under the Unclos, the coastal country has exclusive rights to explore and exploit the natural resources in its EEZ.



The Unclos is an international agreement that provides the legal framework for all activities in the seas. It is the law among its signatories.

It is necessary to draw up rules governing the seas because chaos and conflict may result from the countries’ individual interpretations of national interest abutting these waters. It is a tool for peace.

Its latest version was made in 1982, and has been ratified by 168 countries including China and the Philippines.



The Ayungin Shoal, or the Second Thomas Shoal, is a low-tide elevation 105 nautical miles west of Palawan. It is well within the 200-mile EEZ of the Philippines.

A cursory look at any map will show that Ayungin is far from equidistant to China. It is well outside the latter’s EEZ.

If we follow Unclos, the Philippines has the sole right to explore Ayungin and exploit its natural resources. The Philippines is the only country that can erect structures on this stretch of sand that appears only in low tide.



This is not the Philippines’ self-serving opinion.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in the Hague, Netherlands, has ruled that Ayungin is part of the EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines.

The PCA exists to decide disputes that arise out of international agreements between signatory states. The Unclos is such an international agreement.

As we know, the ruling came after the Philippines filed a complaint. China refused to formally respond.



Why boycott the proceedings when the facts and the law are on your side?

An impartial tribunal is where the weak can stand against the mighty.

China knew it could not prevail in a legal battle with only the mythic nine-dash-line and “historic rights” as its legal basis for occupying and building military structures over islets so far away from its mainland.

A formal ruling rendered with its active participation would tie its hands, as opposed to actual occupation managed through sheer strength, propaganda and mollification of the weak state’s leadership.



The BRP Sierra Madre, a rotting ship, has been the Philippines’ last line of defense against Chinese inroads into Ayungin Shoal.

China claims territorial sovereignty over the shoal that is much closer to the Philippines. What is stopping it from staking a formal claim at the International Court of Justice instead of deploying militarized vessels to waterboard hapless Philippine re-supply missions?

The UN Charter mandates that disputes between states must be settled by peaceful means.

Or are China’s territorial claims hollow as well? Your guess is as good as mine./WDJ

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