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Manila's expenses for South China Sea arbitration should be made public

The great expenses for the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the former Philippine government should be made public, as some Filipinos are already questioning the source of the money.

In 2013, the Benigno Aquino III administration unilaterally filed a case on the South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China. An ad hoc arbitral tribunal set up at Manila's request issued a highly controversial and biased award on July 12, denying China's long-standing historic rights in the South China Sea.

Questions about how much money has been spent on the arbitration, paid by whom and to whom, have not only sparked hot debates in the Philippines, but also drawn attention worldwide.

It had cost Manila 30 million U.S. dollars to merely pay off legal fees and expenses of lawyers who prepared the case against China, Rigoberto Tiglao, former spokesperson and head of presidential office for former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, wrote in an article published in mid-July by the Manila Times.

This prompted a question, raised openly three days later by former senator Francisco S. Tatad, about the real cost of the arbitration. He suspected that the former Philippine government hid the truth from its nationals.

The government "never told the public how much the arbitration would cost the Filipino taxpayers. The Constitution provides that no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law, yet no appropriation has been disclosed for this particular purpose," he wrote to the Manila Times.

"How much then is it? Are any foreign donors involved?" he asked.

"The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency or its State Department should reimburse us," said Tiglao, suggesting that the arbitration case provides an excuse for the United States to interfere in the South China Sea.

Looking back, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) charged the arbitral tribunal for the South China Sea case 2.85 million euros (3.16 million dollars ) for the secretarial service.

This was a sum all paid by Manila, including the share supposed to have been borne by Beijing, which had insisted on a stance of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration.

This cost is supposed to cover human labor and rents for office and office equipment, as well as possible payments to the five members of the arbitral tribunal, said Wang Hanling, a Chinese maritime law expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

A gross sum of partial expenses can be traced on the basis of open data, Wang said. For instance, charges of secretarial service include openly-priced human labor, a single payment of 2,000 euros (2,218 dollars) for registration, and daily rent of office equipment at 1,750 euros (1,940 dollars), among other things, and the hearings room is charged at 1,000 euros (1,109 dollars) per day.

"Such estimations can lead to a conclusion that the arbitrators pocketed largely the money Manila paid," Wang wrote in an article published on July 28 in China's Global Times newspaper.

The PCA charges are the only part made public of the expenses of the arbitration case, Wang said.

Setting a rare precedent in the history of international justice and arbitration by sweepingly siding with Manila's claims, the arbitral award has been widely questioned and challenged in the world. What's worse, it indicates something fishy about the arbitrators, Wang said.

Wang believes that certain countries such as the United States and Japan, and some organizations, probably have invested a great deal of money and resources in the South China Sea arbitration case, citing the first payment by some U.S. institutions.

However, what Manila finally gained from the arbitration case is nothing but a scrap of paper, instead of benefits, he said.

In this regard, it is necessary for Manila to open the records of expenses for the arbitration, so as to respond to the questions raise by the Philippine people and address the concerns of the international community, Wang concluded.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 29Jul16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 01Aug16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.