Dindo Manhit, President of the Stratbase ADR Institute
States do not act in isolation from other states. As they attempt to achieve political and economic goals, it is foreign policy that keeps them interactive and engaged with regional and international actors. In so doing, some “rules,” both formal and informal, have emerged and developed and eventually became the way toward international relations.
The conference hosted by Stratbase ADR Institute, entitled “Challenges to a Rules-Based International System: Moving Forward” (Aug. 17, 2018), discussed the prospects in realizing this system.
In the introduction, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario emphasized at the onset that “the Philippines has been a staunch advocate of a rules-based international system. Its experience as a nation that has been liberated from dictatorial rule proves its commitment to human security, dignity and more importantly, its core values of democracy.”
Through rules-based order, according to him, we can have the bargaining leverage with respect to our legitimate claims about the South China Sea.
“China has continuously rejected the rule of law by ostracizing the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. More so, it has not only unceasingly refused to accept the arbitral ruling that is now an integral part of international law, but it has also unwaveringly flexed its muscle to deprive us of our sovereign rights.”
In concluding his opening message, he commended President Duterte about his remarks regarding China’s aggressive and unlawful behavior in the South China Sea. In this respect, Ambassador Del Rosario emphasized that “adherence to the rule of law is the only way forward.”
The keynote speech delivered by Rt Hon. Mark Field MP, Minister of State Foreign and Commonwealth Office, entitled “Global Britain-supporting the Rules Based International System” expressed the unpredictable consequences of regimes with unchecked power. It was understood that if a state did not respect the diversity of its people and their thoughts, beliefs and wishes, it was likely to be more unpredictable and dangerous beyond its borders.
On this note, the British Minister expressed why they regret the decision of the Philippines to leave the International Criminal Court, which he termed as “an institution that we consider to be a cornerstone of the Rules-Based International System.”
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely tackled three important things. First, she discussed the threats faced by the global rules-based system, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. Second, she accented the importance of rules being developed to address new challenges and gave examples of some of the ways the rules governing our oceans are adapting to changed circumstances.
Third, she examined some of the benefits and risks associated with the negotiation of a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. According to her, “negotiating a Code of Conduct is the constructive step” and urged that all claimants pursue their interests in accordance with international law and cease unilateral action that “destabilizes the region and increases militarization.”
In essence, what has been discussed and agreed in this conference are the following: the defense of and commitment to rules-based international system, the promotion of multilateralism in Asia, the respect to freedom of navigation and international law, and an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. In the volatile character of foreign affairs, civility is achieved through a semblance of procedure in international life and politics.
British Minister Mark Field and Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely represent countries who have fought and though victorious, greatly shared in the human and economic catastrophe of two world wars that inspired the rise of a new world order. A new system founded on the international adherence to the rule of law to avert a repeat of yet another and potentially more terrible global conflict. Their call to stop destabilizing military aggression and to continue working on constructive actions is sage guidance in these times when the core values of democracy and civility between nations is being challenged by strong-arm regimes.