PH’s victory in South China Sea arbitration case non-negotiable — Locsin

Published July 12, 2020, 7:09 PM

by Roy Mabasa

On the occasion of the 4th anniversary of the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea case, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday reaffirmed the country’s adherence to the decision as he calls the award “non-negotiable.”

Locsin reaffirmed this stand in a statement commemorating the July 12, 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the arbitration case initiated and overwhelmingly won by the Philippines against China.

“The Philippines, as a law-abiding, peace-loving and responsible member of the international community, reaffirms on this occasion its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change. The award is non-negotiable,” Locsin said. 

According to Locsin, the arbitration case is a “contribution of great significance and consequence” to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and to the peace and stability of the region at large.

Pursued by the Philippines under the ambit of the constitution of the world’s oceans or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the DFA chief emphasized that the arbitration award “conclusively settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.”

He further described the award as a “milestone in the corpus of international law” when the international body laid down what he described as an authoritative interpretation of key UNCLOS provisions, specifically Article 121(3).

“The Tribunal authoritatively ruled that China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ had no basis in law. Rather, claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without legal effect,” he said.

The Philippines’ top diplomat also cited the Tribunal conclusive ruling that none of the features in the Spratly Islands is capable of generating extended maritime zones and that the Spratly Islands cannot generate maritime zones collectively as a unit. 

In the award, the Hague-based court also found that the Philippines could declare certain sea areas part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as these areas do not overlap with any possible entitlement claimed by China.

The Tribunal ruled that certain actions within the Philippines’ EEZ violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights and were thus unlawful; that large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands caused severe environmental harm in violation of international conventions; that the large-scale harvesting of endangered marine species damaged the marine ecosystem; and that actions taken since the commencement of the arbitration had aggravated the disputes.

Locsin pointed out that compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including UNCLOS to which both parties are signatories. 

“The arbitral tribunal’s award of 12 July 2016 represents a victory, not just for the Philippines, but for the entire community of consistently law-abiding nations,” the DFA secretary said.