Conference report

Politics, Society and Sustainability in the South China Sea

Christine CABASSETThanks to the organizing Committee, in which was François-Xavier BONNET on behalf of IRASEC, 21 speakers from Southeast Asian countries and France gathered in De La Salle University to present a paper and debate about the diplomatic and strategic issues of the South China Sea. The conference was officially opened by Dr. Laurene CHUA-GARCIA, Vice-President for External Relations and Internatio-nalization of De La Salle University, Mr. Fabrice FIZE, Deputy Head of mission of the Embassy of France in the Philippines, and Dr. Christine CABASSET, IRASEC researcher and publication director. With about 100 participants, among them were policy makers but also teachers and students of several Manila universities, the audience brought an active contribution with wise comments and questions.

Dr Laurene Chua-Garcia (vice-presidente for External Relations and Internationalization, De La Salle University)   Remise de l'ouvrage Philippines, archipel des échanges, au haut magistrat Antonio Carpio   Mr Fabrice Fitz (premier conseiller de l'ambassade de France aux Philippines)

Photo on the right: Dr. Laurene CHUA-GARCIA (Vice President for External Relations and Internationalization, De La Salle University).
In the middle: End of the conference. Presentation of the book Philippines, archipel des échanges, to the high magistrate Antonio CARPIO.
Photo on the left: Mr Fabrice FIZE (First Counsellor of the French Embassy in the Philippines).

Panel 1 de gauche à droite (Fabrice Fitz, Dr Laurene Chua-Garcia, Captain Martin Sebastian, Dr Aries Arugay, Dr Alma Salvador, Prof Herman KraftThe first panel focused on the evolution of the South China Sea (SCS) claims since the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in favor of the Philippines against China on July 12 2016. Capt. Martin SEBASTIAN (MIMA) presented the Malaysian Perspective on the issue since SCS represents an important economic artery (oil, gas and fisheries among others). For him, addressing SCS problems is difficult because of the founding dichotomy “Sovereignty vs Economy”. For Prof. Herman Joseph KRAFT (University of the Philippines), the question is not really “What has changed” but “How much it has changed”. Another critical question is: How do we enforce a legal decision? Dr. Alma SALVADOR (Ateneo de Manila University) centered her paper on the impact of the ruling on Philippines and Vietnam. She also questioned the Code of Conduit - COC vs the global platform UNCLOS.

Panel 2 gauche à droite Dr Eric Frecon, Dr Christine Cabasset, Dr Aileen Baviera, Dr Charmaine Willoughby, Quentin BiehlerThe 2nd Panel focused on External Power and regional institutions. Dr. Aileen BAVIERA (Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress) focused on the US and China competition as SCS and Asia’s leaders, as maritime powers, with global maritime interest. Dr. Éric FRÉCON (IRASEC) centered his presentation on the French discourse and policy vis-à-vis the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific, with increasing presence in SCS, for instance through Naval drills (ex. SEACAT 2019), and numerous high level speeches on Indo-Pacific. Dr. Chairmaine WILLOUGHBY (De La Salle University) gave a perspective on the action of Asean Secretariat who, because of the Asean Way, is a platform to negotiate a solution, not a tool for problem solving.

Panel 3 De gauche à droite Dr Francis Domingo, Justice Antonio Carpio, Mr Francois-Xavier Bonnet, Rear Admiral Rommel OngThe 3rd Panel was centered on the strategic importance of SCS. Hon. Justice Antonio CARPIO (Ret.) came back on the history and expansion of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles and of the policy of Freedom of Navigation policy operations in SCS. François-Xavier BONNET (IRASEC) focused on “The Spratly Islands: A Haven for Submarines” through the history of discovery of the secret sea-lanes and their strategic interest. Rear Admiral Rommel ONG (Security Reform Initiative) (Ret.) gave an overview of crucial means for air, space and sea control for sovereignty protection.


Panel 4 gauche à droite Dr Eric Frecon, Dr Jed Aaron Rabena, Atty Raphael Lotilla, Dr Elaine TolentinoThe 4th Panel focused on Opportunities and Limits of the Cooperation with China. Dr. Jed Aaron RABENA (Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress) presented the opportunities and challenges in China’s belt and road initiative in the Philippines. Atty. Raphael LOTILLA (Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress) centered his paper on the opportunities for cooperation, seen for example through both the total FDI in the SEA and the Chinese FDI with a specific focus on the Philippines case. Dr. Elaine TOLENTINO (De La Salle Univ) focused on the Limits of ASEAN Cooperation on the Code of Conduct, noting the length of the COC process.

Panel 5 gauche à droite Dr Jay Batongbacal, Dr Maria Carmen Lagman, Lt Commander Carter Luma-agThe 5th and last panel was on the Environmental Degradation in the SCS. Dr. Jay Batongbacal (univ of the Philippines) focused on fisheries marked by a high density of vessels and an overall increasing production, but with alarming indicators. Dr. Ma. Carmen Lagman (De La Salle univ) also focused on fisheries in the SCS, highlighting the economic and social risks due to the number of people relying on sea resources and to the overfished areas. Lt Commander Carter Luma-ang (National Mapping and Resource information Authority) presented the work of the Authority about the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on coastal areas at municipality level.

De gauche à droite Elaine Tolentino, Éric Frecon (derriere), Charmaine Willoughby, Jed Aaron Rabena, Maria Carmen Lagman,  Laurene Chua-Garcia, Francois-Xavier Bonnet, Antonio Carpio, Jay Batongbacal, Carter Luma-ang, Christine Cabasset, Francis Domingo

From left to right Elaine TOLENTINO, Eric FRÉCON (behind), Charmaine WILLOUGHBY, Jed Aaron RABENA, Maria Carmen LAGMAN, Laurene CHUA-GARCIA, Francois-Xavier BONNET, Antonio CARPIO, Jay BATONGBACAL, Carter LUMA-ANG, Christine CABASSET, Francis DOMINGO.