US, Japan are Philippines’ friends with benefits, but don’t expect them to stand up for us vs China – ex-CJ Panganiban

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Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said the Philippines was not the only winner in the United Nations arbitral award against China on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea in 2016.

Panganiban said the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and Japan were also reaping the benefits of the UN body’s decision rejecting China’s “nine dash claim” to the disputed waters of the South China Sea which made it open for navigation for all countries.

“American, Australian, British and Japanese warships, submarines and warplanes openly roam the SCS, ignoring Chinese warnings that they are violating China’s air space and maritime territory,” said Panganiban in his Inquirer column.

The sad part, Panganiban said, is that these countries have no obligation to make sure that other parts of the UN decision would be enforced: declaring as illegal China’s occupation of rock formations that were part of the Philippines “maritime claims over the rocks, islets and other features in the Spratlys”; and that China has no maritime rights over the WPS because it only occupied rocks instead of an “island.”

Panganiban said the Philippines could not use the award as basis to pry out China from the rocks it reclaimed in the WPS, because the ruling covered only rights over water, not over land.

He said the Philippines needed an ally with a superior military force, like the US, to drive out China but he does not see this happening despite a mutual defense treaty with the Americans.

“While we have defense pacts with the United States and other countries, there is no certainty that these powers will enforce the

award unless, like us, they too are benefited,” he said. “True indeed is the teaching of Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple) of Great Britain that in international relations, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests,” he added.

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