According to National Security Council assistant director Jonathan Malaya, filing a case against China before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is one of the many options on the table for the Philippine government, especially after last Sunday’s incident in Ayungin Shoal where a Chinese coast guard ship hit a Filipino vessel carrying provisions for a military outpost, after executing a provocative maneuver.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Coast Guard have already listed numerous infractions committed by the Chinese to hold them accountable, but it is still up to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his Cabinet’s security, justice and peace cluster to decide if a case can be filed, based on results of ongoing investigations.
Unaiza May 2, an AFP-contracted supply boat, was on a regular supply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre on Sunday when it was blocked by a Chinese coast guard vessel with bow number 5203. The aggressive maneuvers ultimately resulted in a collision that should’ve been preventable in the first place.
The incident prompted the DFA to file a diplomatic protest against Beijing, with allies like the USA, France, South Korea, and Japan rallying behind the Philippines.
Filing a case before the ITLOS certainly is on the table and action should be taken as soon as possible, before an increasingly aggressive and petulant China further escalates the situation. This is necessary as according to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., the Chinese actions are not yet enough to trigger the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.
Following the collision, Brawner said the government instead set its sights on rallying allies, partners, and like-minded nations to continue joint exercises in the South China Sea as demonstration of a united front against aggressors.
Given the aggression and impunity of China in the West Philippine Sea and well within the country’s exclusive economic zone, the Philippines has to do all it can to send its message and affirm its stance, not only to China, but for the entire world to see as well. If filing a case at the ITLOS will help our cause, then as the aggrieved party, we should definitely pursue any and all options that can at the very least make China pause and reconsider its unacceptable acts of aggression.*