Negotiation Dilemma: The West Philippine Sea Dispute
By Rowen Untivero
In response to the clamor from mentees, clients and friends herewith are my negotiation framework-anchored thoughts. Putting things in perspective, although my three decades of negotiation practice focused primarily on business and organizational conflict resolution, the frameworks and tools on strategic and tactical negotiation that I have developed over a quarter of a century, apply universally to any kind of negotiating situation. They embrace the fact that careful situation analysis aided with tools, enable logical strategy development and deployment guided by framework, and that helps define downstream parameters of execution styles appropriate for employment.
Here are the givens as of this writing as gathered from various news releases. 1) The territorial dispute with China concerns not only the Philippines but several Asian countries. 2) The disputed areas are abundant in gas, oil, and marine resources. They are also vital to commercial and civilian navigation. 3) For quite some time, the parties involved, some more than others are or have already been positioning, sabre-rattling and recently escalating military deployment to check and countercheck each other 4) U.N.C.L.O.S. has ruled in favour of the Philippines, thrashing the 9-dash claim of China but is incapable of enforcing the ruling. 5) China refuses to recognize the U.N.C.L.O.S. jurisdiction nor the ruling; it has insisted on bilateral negotiations with each country; meanwhile as the stalemate drags, China continues to build artificial islands.  6) Recently the US, Japan and Australia have jointly urged China to respect the international ruling 7) Sadly, ASEAN is not solid owing to Cambodia’s position. 8) Militarization contributes considerably to the tension in the region.  Such testosterone-filled proximity of China’s,  each of the Asian claimant’s as well as the allies’ (US, Japan and Australia) military presence have an  unnerving likelihood of sparking friction, which may in turn precipitate armed conflict, intended or otherwise. Most of the players know that. But in game of bluffs and calibrated counters involving real armaments, miscalculations and miscommunication can render a volatile situation eruptive.
SOURCE OF CONFLICT: China bases its claim on some kind of historical map. The Philippines and eventually other claimants are basing it on old practices, the ruling of the U.N.C.L.O.S. and the supporting thesis that led to the ruling. Moreover, the unceasing construction of and on artificial islands by China is exacerbating the issue. To the Philippines and other countries involved, this spells transgression of sovereignty over territorial areas spitting distance from homeland shores.  The absence of a single resolution standard as well as China’s rejection of the international arbiter has resulted to an impasse.
COMMON INTEREST: Ultimately this dispute’s common interest is economic in nature.  Each of the claimants has commercial interest in the bountiful resources located in these disputed areas.  Peace is also something everyone wants, or will war benefit any party? If so, that has to be trumped or led back to a more attractive outcome with the option of peace.
GAMBITS AT PLAY China is using power jabs (militarization) and deception to egg the Philippines and other claimants to resort to bilateral talks. Obviously this is a divide-and conquer gambit. Without ASEAN solidarity each member will be weak relative to China. Meanwhile, with time on their side, as the issue drags, China would simply continue to build artificial islands.
POINTS TO PONDERSome questions to ask ourselves…
CHECKING THE POWER IMBALANCE:How can we avoid falling into China’s gambits? How can we help solidify ASEAN position? How can we strengthen our negotiating posture?  How can our allies check China’s power just enough to even up the negotiation posturing?
 A THIRD RESOLUTION PERSPECTIVE: What fair standard can we propose that will be acceptable to all parties? How can we then urge all parties to focus on the win-win commercial interests while deescalating military involvement? Can such interests be served without threatening sovereignties of country’s whose main lands are a stone’s throw? Perhaps can commercial collaboration instead of governmental interventions work better? How can all these be accomplished without loss of face of countries and respective leaders?
Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company.  Untivero is the developer of original Mansmith Frameworks such as the world’s first “Nego-Mathematics”, the “Strategic Nego-Mapping Tool” and the “Pyramid Repertoire of 13 Influencing Strategies and Methods in Influencing-P.R.I.S.M 13” among others.  He has been injecting much practicable science into sales management, negotiations, selling and general management for more three decades.  Please send your questions, comments or feedback to You can also visit