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HCCH Asia Pacific Week in Manila

Dr Christophe Bernasconi, Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH)

By Anton Lutter

From 18-20 October The Hague Conference on International Private Law the Asia Pacific Week was hosted by The Philippines at its capital Manila. The successful conference was jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Supreme Court of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines College of Law.

This year’s theme: “Enabling cross-border cooperation n the region and beyond”. The main goal of HCCH, established in 1893, is the unification of the rules of private international law, adopting conventions and instruments concerning three main areas: International Family and Child Protection Law, Transnational Litigation and Cooperation and International Commercial, Digital and Financial Law.

With a globalizing world its obvious that the HCCH is of great significance. The hosting country became a State Party in 2010 and is fully committed to JCCH and its Conventions on its mandate to facilitate cross-border legal cooperation as both the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo stated. Prior to the conference the Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (2007 Child Support Convention) entered into force for the Republic of the Philippines following the deposit of its instrument of ratification on 22 June 2022.

Signing of a Cooperation Agreement between HCCH and the University of Philippines – College of Law, the latter represented by Dean Carlos Vistan and HCCH by its Secretary-General Dr. Christoph Barnasconi.

The lecturers at the conference were all international legal heavyweights from countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States and Vietnam and of course the Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) Dr Christophe Bernasconi, was at the conference. The ambassador of The Philippines to The Netherlands H.E. Mr. Jose Eduardo Malaya, who’s been the leading figure to realize the HCCH Asia Pacific Week in Manila is himself a lawyer, current vice-president of the Philippine Society of International Law (PSIL) and a member Executive Council of the Asian Society of International Law (AsianSIL), took an acting part himself in the conference by providing remarks titled: “On accession to and Implementation of HCCH Conventions: The Philipine Experience”.

H.E. Mr. Eduardo J Malaya, Ambassador of the Philippines.

Ambassador Malaya noted that: “In the course of the Asia Pacific Week, prominent HCCH Conventions and instruments, as well as normative projects and future work, will be taken up. These will include the five Conventions where the Philippines is a Contracting Party as well as others which the country may consider accession in the future.  In our view, accession to two can be prioritized, namely the Evidence Convention and the Child Protection Convention. 

The Evidence Convention provides effective means for the taking of evidence in cross-border circumstances in civil or commercial matters. By enabling a variety of mechanisms for the taking of evidence abroad, it provides an effective solution to overcoming differences between civil and common law systems in the taking of evidence. Its streamlined process of taking evidence is frequently used in practice in numerous countries and play a fundamental role in effective cross border litigation. It also reduces party litigants’ expenses and help address court delays. It already covers 60 countries, including the U.S., most EU countries, China, Singapore and most recently, Vietnam. In the case of the Philippines, it will complement the hearing via videoconferencing instituted by the Supreme Court in 2021. 

From left to right: Vice Dean Solomon Lumba, Dean Carlos Vistan, Dr Christophe Bernasconi, and Ambassador Malaya.

The Convention on parental responsibility and protection of children covers civil measures of protection ranging from parental responsibility, child custody and access, to measures of protection or care, and protection of children’s property. The Convention determines which country’s laws are to be applied, and provides for the recognition and enforcement of measures taken in one Contracting State in all other Contracting States.

The cooperation provisions of the Convention already provide the basic framework for the exchange of information and the necessary degree of collaboration between administrative authorities in 53 Contracting States. It will complement the Adoption and Child Abduction Conventions where the Philippines is a Contracting Party, thus underscoring further the country’s commitment to children’s welfare and elevate the country as fully supportive of the emerging international regime of child protection”.

Ambassador Malaya also urged the Philippines legal community to: “take a good look at another groundbreaking initiative of the HCCH – the Choice of Law Principles. These principles promote party autonomy in international commercial contracts. By acknowledging that parties to a contract are best positioned to determine the set of legal norms governing their transactions, the Principles offer legal certainty and predictability necessary for effective cross-border trade and commerce. Rather than a country acceding to the principles, arbitration institutions around the world are encouraged to incorporate or adopt it into their own institutional rules”. Furthermore, he stated that: “in the case of the Philippines, arbitration has long been recognized as one of the most effective mechanisms in resolving disputes. Since the passage of the Arbitration Law in 1953, the field of arbitration and proliferation of arbitral institutions have grown exponentially over the years. I urge Filipino arbitrators to join in the discussion, and consider the Choice of Law Principles and its potential in dispute resolution”.

The HCCH Asia Pacific week was attended by over 450 (international) participants representing government and judicial authorities, academic institutions, civil society and the private sector and concluded by a signing of a Cooperation Agreement between HCCH and University of Philippines – College of Law, the latter represented by Dean Carlos Vistan and HCCH by its secretary-general Dr Christophe Bernasconi.

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