Manalo cites arbitral ruling on South China Sea; rejects other countries' claims

The Philippines wants peace in the South China Sea in the present and in the future as it asserts, despite other countries' contests, its rights over the waters by citing international law and the arbitral ruling made six years ago.

While expressing a positive outlook on the South China Sea, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo also made a strong statement on Tuesday, which rejected any other claims that "undermine" the ruling.

According to Manalo, the Award, which is an affirmation of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea's (UNCLOS) dispute resolution mechanisms, ruled authoritatively that the historic "nine-dash line" claim of other countries "had no basis in law and is without legal effect."

He did not name any country in particular, but the nine-dash line is being used mainly by China to assert its claim over the waters.

The Award, Manalo added, also "upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone."

Citing the Award, Manalo tagged as "unlawful" certain actions within the Philippine exclusive economic zone that violated the country's sovereign rights.

These included the large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands that "caused severe environmental harm in violation of international conventions," the large-scale harvesting of endangered marine species that "damaged the marine ecosystem," and the actions taken since the commencement of the arbitration that "had aggravated the disputes."

For Manalo, the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling on July 12, 2016 affirmed to the community of nations "that the rule of law prevails, and that stability, peace and progress can only be attained when founded on a rules-based legal order on the oceans, as it should be everywhere else."

"The Award and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are the twin anchors of the Philippines' policy and actions on the West Philippine Sea," he said on the 6th Anniversary of the Award on the South China Sea Arbitration

He asserted that the findings of the Award and the UNCLOS "are no longer within the reach of denial and rebuttal."

He also said they "are conclusive as they are indisputable."

"The Award is final. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it; nay, even erase it from law, history and our collective memories. At the same time, we welcome the support of a growing list of countries for the Award," he said.

For Manalo, the Award even benefits the entire family of nations.

This is because the Philippines does "not see it as directed at any other country, near or far." Rather, it sees "it as it should be seen: as favoring all which are similarly situated by clarifying definitively a legal situation beyond the reach of arms to change."

"It puts this aspect of international law beyond the limit of prescription," he said.

"And so we say once again: the present that we need and the future that we want is a peaceful South China Sea. The Philippines is committed to this for as long as it exists," he added.