The following article was published in the May 2023 issue of the International Review of Contemporary Law, the journal of the IADL.
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to congratulate on the success of the conference. On behalf of International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), I would like to express my great gratitude to all distinguished guests and participants for your actively participating in the conference and sharing suggestions that help resolve conflicts in a peaceful way. We have had a very effective working day with 8 presentations from experts from Russia, India, the Philippines and Viet Nam. We also had a fruitful discussion among all the conference participants with lots of interesting and helpful ideas, which I believe will be valuable contributions to the process of peaceful settlement of the SCS (South China Sea) disputes.
Through the first session of the conference we have obtained a clear picture of the situation in the SCS, whereas we know that the situation continues to be a matter of concern not only for the region, but also for the international community as a whole. Contrary to some predictions that the situation in the SCS would become more stable, in fact over the past years the situation in the SCS has continued to be very complicated with new and old security challenges. The basic reason is that China has many activities to assert its sovereignty here, including the China Coast Guard Law that allows the use of force in contravention of international law; great power competition makes the SCS a battleground, and the fact that countries continue to resolutely assert their rights in the SCS in their own ways may cause conflict to erupt; meanwhile certain Governments like the Durterte Administration has not taken a clear position on the South China Sea issue…
In session 2, scholars emphasized an important trend that the solution to the situation in the SCS may have changes in the near future. The most basic reason is the fact that all parties agree upon the demand for maintaining the SCS a sea that brings legitimate interests to all parties, promoting peaceful settlement of disputes, and abiding by the law (especially the 1982 UNCLOS) while Beijing’s relentless push for territorial and economic ambitions in the South China Sea makes the situation increasingly complicated. The fact that Beijing is increasing pressure on countries on other strategic issues is also the reason why countries can abandon their neutral policy on the SCS because they know this is China’s core interest. On the other hand, the formation of action groups for common interests in specific areas like the Quad can also create impetus for changing common actions in the South China Sea.
IADL for many years has called for the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law and will continue to monitor to make sure the region is moving toward peace and security. I therefore, I encourage all experts of this conference to come back to their respective countries and report the results of this conference to their Governments for consideration. I also request IADL to post the result of the conference on its website and bulletin to widen the impact of our work today.
IADL reaffirms and asks related parties to respect and completely adhere to the Declaration of Conduct in the SCS (DOC) as well as early establish and implement COC, which should be legally-binding and based on international laws, including United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. The code of conduct should include legal obligations of related parties to secure freedom of navigation and airviation in the South China Sea and require parties to resolve disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international laws and prohibits use of force or threat of using force. SCS should be monitored rigidly so that we can timely raise our concerns and consultations as well as having an early meeting to continuously assess the situation in SCS and discussing necessary subsequent actions.
Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude and thankfulness to our Russian host – the International Fund – the way for Peace, especially President Irina Umnova, who has spent lots of her time and energy for the peace process in general and for this conference in particular. I also thank experts from Russia, India, the Phillipnes and Viet Nam for their presentations at the conference and I hope to have your further support in the future.
Thank you all lawyers, legal experts and guests who have participated in this conference. Hope to see you all in the next SCS conference with positive feedback.
* IADL Transitional President, Chairman of National Union of People’s Lawyers of the Philippines
All articles published in the International Review of Contemporary Law reflect only the position of their author and not the position of the journal, nor of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.