University of Philippines Manila

Batongbacal presents challenges and opportunities in defending the West Philippine Sea in talk at CAS

The Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Public Service (OADREPS), together with the UP Manila Political Science Society (UP Polis), of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) organized the CAS Invited Talk entitled “Defending the West Philippine Sea: Challenges and Opportunities’’ held last November 16, 2023 at the UPM CAS Theater.

The welcome remarks were delivered by the Dean of College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Maria Constancia O. Carrillo, PhD and the speaker was introduced by the Associate Dean for Research and Public Service, Dr. Christopher Jay T. Robidillo of CAS.

The talk was given by Atty. Jay L. Batongbacal, Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at UP Law Center, Diliman. He is an expert in maritime affairs, and is a member of the UNESCO OIC list of experts for the UNCLOS

In his lecture, Atty. Batongbacal provided an overview on the most complicated international disputes in the South China Sea and its geography and discussed the pressing issues regarding the territorial and maritime disputes on the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China. He explained the Administrative Order 29, Series of 2012, that created the name “West Philippine Sea’’ referring to the maritime areas of the Western side of the Philippine archipelago including the Luzon Sea and its neighboring islands, Calayan Group of Islands and Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc. Thereafter, determining the maritime domain of the Philippines and its sovereign rights and jurisdictions in international law, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Thus, with the current stance of China, the West Philippine Sea became the country’s one of the most important national security challenges on the Filipinos territorial integrity and its contribution to the food security/fisheries, role in long-term sustainability of the marine environment, its potential as a storehouse of our undiscovered and untapped energy and mineral reserves, and as the principal medium of our international trade linkages.

Atty. Batongbacal added that the economic potential of the West Philippines Sea causing for the interest of many countries on the said aerial and maritime domain were also emphasized, such as the possibilities of being a source of petroleum, a waterway to various shipping routes leading to maritime trades/ mobility that leads to the connection to global economy, the presence of abundant coral reef ecosystem, and being a host to many submarine cables that is the key to the massive digital communication and data/ internet.

“Passivity and avoidance are not viable. A policy of neutrality and non-involvement is not feasible. And will only lead us to domination by the power with the most to gain from our withdrawal and subservience. So this is why we must necessarily pursue and persist in advocating a true rule of law, the one that is consistent with the international law and work on defending the rules based international order as it currently stands against China’s revisionist plans. While reforms in the international legal system are indeed needed and welcome, such reforms must only improve upon the United Nation system and preserve the equality and autonomy of all states,” he concluded.

The closing remarks were delivered by Mr. Jose Mikhail F. Perez, the program head of the Political Science Program in the Department of Social Sciences, CAS, UP Manila.

Angelou C. Mendoza

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