Date of Publication
College of Law
Ricardo A. Sunga III
Defense Panel Chair
Rene B. Gorospe
Defense Panel Member
Victoria V. Loanzon
Josine Alexandra Gamboa
This study aims to identify the more viable solution - demilitarization or declaration of a marine protected area - to end the threat to our national security and sovereignty, and further destruction of our marine resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) by China, and to enable Philippines to freely enjoy its UNCLOS-granted rights.
A demilitarized zone is an area which cannot be occupied or used for military purposes. This means that combatants, as well as weapons and military equipment will be evacuated; no hostile use of fixed military installations; no acts of hostility by authorities or by the population; and cessation of all activities linked to military effort.
A marine protected area (MPA) is a designated area in the ocean within which human activities are regulated. Such areas are carved out to maintain the natural environment for ecological, economic, cultural, social, recreational, and other reasons.
Experts say that demilitarization through unilateral declaration has no teeth nor impact while demilitarization through a United Nation Security Council resolution is far from reality. China, as a Permanent Member State at the UN Security Council, is granted the right to veto any resolution. Even if the majority of the member states vote in affirmative, if China casts a negative vote then the resolution will not be approved.
The consensus among our resource persons is that demilitarization through treaty or international agreement is the most feasible way of the available means to demilitarize the WPS.
However, taking into consideration a realistic assessment of the current dynamics between China and the Philippines (even with the Coalition of the Willing), demilitarization through any of the means is not attainable.
The researchers recommend that the declaration of the Spratlys Island as an MPA, the breeding ground of fish and home to diverse marine organisms in the South China Sea, is the better course of action since it is a green agreement, not directed at any one, it benefits all, and it will likely gain support from all nations, even China. As a fishing nation which sources 50 percent of its annual catch in the South China Sea, China will also benefit in protecting that area in the WPS.
This is similar to what Jordan and Israel did with Red Sea Marine Peace Park; US and Canada with Waterton Lakes - Glacier National Park; Australia and Papua New Guinea with the Torres Strait; and 12 nations with the Antarctic World Park.
West Philippine Sea; Marine parks and reserves--Philippines; Demilitarization (International law)
Amores, A. C., & Morpe, Z. G. (2021). Demilitarization vs. declaration of a marine protected area: Identifying the better policy solution to defend Philippines' rights in the West Philippine Sea. Retrieved from https://animorepository.dlsu.edu.ph/etdm_law/7
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