Permanent Court for Arbitration a Double-Edged Sword: Handle with Care*

Due to popular demand, Beyond Deadlines is reposting every Monday the still relevant articles of retired Armed Forces of the Philippines intelligence chief Brig. General Victor Corpus that appeared in his BD’s column, Views from the East.

Nov. 8, 2016

THE Permanent Court for Arbitration (PCA) ruling that Justice Carpio worked for at The Hague with US support is like a double-edged sword that is best kept sheathed in its scabbard. Once we unsheathe that sword, the sharp blade has more chances of hurting its wielder rather than the enemy.

First of all, the US wants RP to unsheathe that sword so that the US can use it as a pretext to contain China, like how the US used the Ton-kin Gulf Incident to wage war against North Vietnam, or how the US used the pretext of Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” to attack and destroy Iraq.

Unsheathing that sword for the benefit of the US is clearly not in accordance with RP national interest.

Unsheathing that same sword to wield it against China to stake our claim of ownership and drive the Chinese out of the area won’t do either; for the Chinese have time and again shown by their actions that they are ready to go to war with anyone who will force them out of those islands by force.

Hence, the PCA, which is an issue of sovereignty or ownership is an important weapon for RP; and the Philippines is grateful to Justice Carpio for providing our country with that vital legal weapon. But we must know how to use it well to advance Philippine national interest; not against it.

We can use this legal weapon against China’s own historical weapon: as China claims sovereignty of those same islands that we claim based on history; that they discovered those islands and gave them names way back in 1279, and according to international law, the one that made the discovery and gave names have the right to sovereignty.

Since RP will never surrender its claims based on the PCA ruling; and China will also never surrender its claims based on history and international law; RP and China can never resolve the sovereignty or ownership issue even if we negotiate or debate for the next one hundred years.

Hence, the best option for both countries is to set aside this contentious issue for the rest of the century; with both agreeing that each side will continue holding on to their respective claims without surrendering their right of sovereignty so that neither side loses face before their respective constituents.

Dwelling on this issue will only lead the two countries eventually to war. Only when both countries agree to set aside this dispute can we begin the real WIN-WIN NEGOTIATION that will benefit both the Philippines and China.

The PCA that Justice Carpio gifted to the Filipino people, as I have mentioned above, can bring both good and bad result depending on how we use it.

Good if we use it as a legal counter-weight to China’s claim of sovereignty based on history and international law. Hence, since we will not surrender our claim, and China will also insist on their claim; even if we argue for a hundred, nay, a thousand years, we will never resolve the issue of sovereignty.

So the best way is for both parties to set aside this contentious issue of sovereignty for the rest of the century with both holding firm to their respective claims. Only after both sides agree to set aside disputes can we then start discussing development and cooperation.

Now, the bad side.

The PCA becomes bad for us if we use it to bludgeon China and force China to accept it; for China merely walks out of the negotiations and opt for war instead.

This is what I mean when I say that Justice Carpio’s position on insisting wielding the PCA against China will lead to WAR.

This is because we will be forced to cross China’s red line, or what they call in negotiation as BATNA: better alternative to a negotiated agreement; wherein the other party would rather walk out of the negotiation because for them, they would rather opt for WAR as that is the better alternative to a negotiated agreement.


* The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.


Victor Corpus, M.P.A.
A graduate of Philippine Military Academy Cl’67; MPA ’90 from Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Brig. Gen. Victor N. Corpus, (AFP, retired) spent five years with the New People’s Army (1971-76); detained for 10 years under Martial Law and sentenced to death by musketry; and became Chief, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Can be reached at: viccor2003@yahoo.com

One Reply to “Permanent Court for Arbitration a Double-Edged Sword: Handle with Care*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.