With the continuing pressure by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) on the countries surrounding the South China Sea which claim various sea areas, islands, rocks and shoals these countries are irritable and nervous. The issues of ratification and application of the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is a current 'International Diplomatic Issue'. At the recent UNCLOS meeting various Nations many with little or no actual power to apply very much of anything spoke pompously of putting this and that into practice. One might point out that several of these Nations cannot feed their own people or have developed a viable infrastructure and in this NAUTICAL LOG speaks from long years of personal experience. These were the speeches that when an Observer one took a bathroom break or examined the room to see who was in attendance, who had left a notetaker, and who had finally dozed off after an enjoyable previous night socialising - that was always interesting.
It is three decades since the then United States Administration raised issues with the UNCLOS and while the U.S. applies the parts it likes through the United States Coast Guard (USCG) it has yet to ratify this Treaty. Now as then the principle issues are:
- Reliance on Customary International Law
- United Nations Royalty Payments
- International Seabed Authority
- Environmental Obligations and Disputes.
The PRC will have the ability to enforce its claim with the China Marine Surveillance (CMS) alone being an agency with 350 armed vessels - which one might point out equals the current operational vessels of the entire United States Navy (USN). Now the Republic of the Philippines which a couple of decades ago kicked the U.S. military out of its bases in their country are terrified of being overrun by the PRC an effort which began with its landing on Scarborough/Huangyan/Panatag Shoal. There are frightened "peeps" from inside and outside that government for an arrangement once again with the United States to utilise the bases in which it had previously stationed both land and sea forces. The President of the Philippines recently visited Washington, DC and the Chairman of the U.S. Joints Chief of Staff resplendent in the revised 19th. Century U.S. Army uniforms of Prussian Blue with rank insignia of and worn in the style of the War between the States has made statements of interest in having bases in the Philippines. Is this an effort to compete with the very smartly turned out PRC military and its civilian support staff ?
The Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (ASEP) proposed putting up a permanent structure on Scarborough/Huangyan/Panatag Shoal possibly to make it the Scarborough/Panatag Shoal. Another even more impractical idea was to build a bridge from the mainland out to the shoal. Clearly it is not realised that the distance is 124 nautical miles and if not of sufficient height the bridge would block innocent passage by international shipping. These are totally unrealistic ideas and for a country like the Philippines the proposed bridge is preposterous.
It is hard to listen too and take with any seriousness such business leaders - one uses the term guardedly - of a country which sells its citizens into bondage overseas working as seafarers, domestic servants and general labourers. Bondage you ask? Indeed the seafarers after somewhat suspect training to be seafarers are handed over to crewing agencies where for an exorbitant fee may possibly obtain positions in ships which use crews from the Philippines. They and their families are then in bondage to repay this fee before any money actually goes to the seafarer at all. Similarly the domestic servants and general workers are under bondage due to the fee system to find work and once they actually do obtain a position. There is one might add little or no monitoring of these overseas workers other than taking taxes from them when they return home unless the Government of the Philippines wants to cause political trouble such as the recent protest in Vienna, Austria.
The Government of Austria may now cancal the work permits of these protestors and they will have to return to the Philippines still in financial bondage to the employment agencies and most likely blacklisted for future positions overseas.
While NAUTICAL LOG is quite sure our Post will be quite upsetting to various government and business leaders in the Philippines they are the ones who own and operate the employment agencies which are known only too well to all Masters who have had Philippine crews and the Port Captains who must examine what one described to NAUTICAL LOG as "suitcases full of certificates but actually had to be trained on board to do the job".
So there it is not very pleasant but it is a story repeated many many times by overseas workers from the Philippines and recorded in the Courts of several Nations which have investigated as a result of abuse and even deaths to these persons. The ratification by the United States of UNCLOS is not going to change a damn thing written about in this Post.