August 3, 2023
MANILA – While France has been vocal in its support for the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling that invalidated China’s claim over most of the South China Sea, the French ambassador in Manila did not directly answer whether they would support the Philippines should it raise before the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Beijing’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz was asked by reporters if France would vote in favor of the arbitration award should it be tackled at the UNGA.
“We support a rules-based international order; we support international law. But the thing that we need to understand is: What are the expectations of the Philippines in raising it to the United Nations?” she said.
When the Philippines marked the award’s seventh anniversary last month, Boccoz was one of several foreign ambassadors who issued statements lauding the July 12, 2016 ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
But on Tuesday, she asked what “angle” the Philippines would use in raising its maritime conflict with China before the UNGA since, according to her, the arbitration award was “final and stands as a legally binding decision.”
Asked for comment, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reiterated to the Inquirer that bringing the matter to the UNGA was the country’s next best option since the arbitration court has no enforcing body.
“The UNGA is the locus of world opinion since all the countries of the civilized world are represented there each with one vote. When the UNGA adopts a resolution, it expresses the opinion of the world,” said Carpio, one of the government officials who spearheaded the country’s maritime case against China in the arbitration court in 2013.
He added that the Philippines’ expectation was to show China that the “world supports us” and also apply “moral pressure on China to stop its threat of force in the West Philippine Sea.”
Carpio likened China’s harassment in the South China Sea to Russia’s violation of the UN Charter when it initiated its invasion of Ukraine. In 2021, UN members condemned Moscow through a resolution and demanded that it withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
While the UNGA has no legal authority to order any of its members, Carpio said that “condemnation [was] enough and double” and that “we are only following the rule of law when we go to the UNGA.”
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Resolution No. 718 which calls on the government to intensify its efforts in “asserting and securing” the country’s sovereignty in relation to China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea. It stopped short, however, of directing the Department of Foreign Affairs to raise the matter before the UNGA as originally proposed under Senate Resolution No. 659 filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.