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A good day for the Philippines


U.S. Navy flies over islands in South China Sea. by U.S. Navy

Iris Gonzales reports on the historic ruling against China’s claim over disputed territory.

The United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague has ruled in favour of the Philippines, saying that the West Philippine Sea belongs to the Philippines and not to China.

In a landmark historic ruling, the international tribunal ruled that China’s claim over the disputed territory is invalid.

‘[A]s between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the “nine-dash line” are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention,' according to the award released on July 12.

In its ruling, the tribunal said there was no evidence that China has exercised exclusive control over the disputed waters or its resources.

‘The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line,’ the PCA said in a press release.

Furthermore, the PCA concluded that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

As such, the tribunal found that it could – without delimiting a boundary – declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.’

However, China said it does not and will not recognize the ruling.

‘On 22 January 2013, the then government of the Republic of the Philippines unilaterally initiated arbitration on the relevant disputes in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines. On 19 February 2013, the Chinese government solemnly declared that it neither accepts nor participates in that arbitration and has since repeatedly reiterated that position,’ the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China said in a statement.

It declared the award null and void and said it has no binding force.

‘On 7 December 2014, the Chinese government released the Position Paper of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines, pointing out that the Philippines' initiation of arbitration breaches the agreement between the two states, violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and goes against the general practice of international arbitration, and that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction,’ it also said.

China also claimed that the unilateral initiation of arbitration by the Philippines was done in bad faith.

‘It aims not to resolve the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines, or to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, but to deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea,’ the Chinese government said.

As such, it stressed that the initiation of the arbitration violates international law.

It is now up to the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to act on the ruling and defend the country’s territory.

In the meantime, fishermen who used to bring home $1,000 worth of fish on a good run from Scarborough Shoal, one of the disputed areas, could no longer enjoy such a catch. They are keeping their fingers crossed that things will really change with this ruling.

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