Big powers, like the United States and China, have been pushing their own national interests, disregarding international laws and infringing on the rights of weaker and smaller neighbors.

China, for instance, was a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), but its 10-dash-line claim on the South China Sea violates international law.

It also ignored the 2016 ruling promulgated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which repudiated the 10-dash-line claim as excessive and illegal.

Beijing had made at least seven artificial islands in the Spratlys, turning the half-submerged shoals and reefs into military bases with airstrips and secured ports.

These man-made islands dwarfed the features occupied by four other states — Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam — claiming sovereignty in the area. Brunei does not occupy any feature but claims the waters to its west that are believed to have rich deposits of energy resources.

Hundreds of Chinese civilian vessels were deployed to the South China Sea to establish control of the waters it had claimed to be part of its territory.

Thus, China has encroached upon the Philippines’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which has become a source of growing tensions in the strategic waterway.

Beijing has drawn a red line on two areas in the South China Sea — the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, about 130 nautical miles west of Zambales, and the Second Thomas Shoal or Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly group of islands.

Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels often harassed Philippine ships and fishing boats to preserve the status quo set in 2012.

Chinese vessels had shadowed, made dangerous maneuvers against, rammed, water-cannoned, and laser-pointed Philippine government vessels and aircraft and civilian fishing fleet.

China’s 10-dash-line claim was driven by its desire to create a buffer zone, pushing the United States and its allies out of the South China Sea, as part of its first island chain of defense.

More importantly, the South China Sea would help stabilize China’s food and energy security because of the rich marine and fish resources and potential untapped oil and gas deposits.

China is not alone in disregarding Unclos to advance its security and economic interests.

Washington wanted to take advantage of the provisions of the 1982 Unclos, even if it was outside of the international agreement.

Last month, the US State Department
announced the boundaries of its extended continental shelf (ECS) in seven regions, including the energy-rich Arctic Circle and Gulf of Mexico.

It took more than two decades for Washington to complete the delineation of its ECS in seven regions — Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific, Bering Sea, Mariana Island, and eastern and western parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

In the Arctic region, some of the ECS coordinates extended up to 680 miles from Alaska’s coastlines. It could overlap with Canada and the Russian Federation.

Under Unclos, coastal states can delineate areas below the sea surface beyond the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, where they have exclusive sovereign rights to explore, extract, and exploit living and non-living resources.

Commonly, coastal states can claim a continental shelf 350 miles from the coastline.

Defining the extended continental shelf in these regions would allow the United States to conserve and manage the resources at the subsea level.

If China, a signatory to the convention, disregarded the Unclos to advance its national interests in the South China Sea, the United States, not a signatory, was using Unclos to promote its national interests.

Washington may have misappropriated the resources in the seven continental shelves by acting without the consent of the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf.

It has blatantly disregarded international law, openly usurping the “common heritage of mankind.”

In contrast, Canada, Denmark, and Russia patiently waited for years for the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf to decide on their claims in the Arctic region.

Washington’s neighbors in the seven regions have verified the reliability of the datasets collected by the US ECS task force because there was data and information shared with them.

The US also failed to consult Canada, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, and other neighboring coastal states before it made the ECS announcement in December 2023.

Thus, the US State Department’s ECS announcement was illegal considering that Washington has yet to sign the 1982 Unclos, which it used as a basis for acquiring the ECS.

It could damage its reputation if many developing states with ECS claims would protest and criticize what the US had done.

Worse, Washington opened a maritime territorial dispute with its two closest allies — Canada and Japan.

It could open a potential dispute with five other Scandinavian states — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden — for control of precious oil and gas resources in the Arctic Circle.

It was believed the region held 400 billion barrels of recoverable reserves of oil, natural gas, and hydrocarbon resources.

The region holds about 13 percent of untapped oil resources and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas.

Thus, the United States and China are similarly situated. They have both ignored international laws to explore, exploit, and extract energy resources.

Washington’s ECS announcement last month could also have an impact on the Philippines, locked in a constant dispute with China over the South China Sea.

Manila has been accusing Beijing of violating international laws by throwing out Unclos and the 2016 arbitration ruling on the South China Sea.

Yet its staunchest ally, the United States, which stands behind Unclos and the Hague ruling, has also ignored the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf.

It could weaken Manila’s position in defending its borders and territories due to America’s double standards and blatant violation of international law.