by Janice M. Cave, Philippine News Agency | Wednesday, 13 July 2016
The landmark decision of an international tribunal in The Hague upholding the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea is a “victory for all,” former President Benigno S. Aquino III said.
Now that the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration has clearly rejected China’s expansive claims to the entire West Philippine Sea, Aquino said the ruling “establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity.”
In a statement, Aquino lauded the historic ruling on the case lodged by the Philippines against China in 2013, as he expressed elation that all points raised by the Philippines have been affirmed.
”We want to thank the Permanent Court of Arbitration for their fair judgment, and we would also like to extend our gratitude for the clarity with which they presented their ruling,” Aquino said.
The tribunal ruled that there is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to a “nine-dash line”; that three disputed areas Panganiban Reef, Ayungin Shoal and Recto Bank form part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf; and Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) is a common traditional fishing ground; China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by constructing artificial islands, interfering with Filipinos’ fishing and oil exploration, and failing to prevent Chinese from fishing in the Philippine EEZ; China’s island reclamation aggravated the dispute during arbitration and inflicted irreparable harm on the marine environment.
It was during Aquino’s term that the Philippines filed a case against China after it seized Scarborough Shoal which is within the country’s EEZ, a few miles off the coast of Zambales province.
Aquino admitted that the decision to pursue arbitration was “not an easy one to make” but it was definitely a “game-changer” in international dispute issues.
It is the first time that a legal challenge has been brought in the dispute to the West Philippine Sea, which Aquino called a “Sea Known by Many Names.” The West Philippine Sea is a vital trade route and fishing grounds with huge oil and gas deposits.
“We foresaw and experienced the pressures in taking this route; yet until the end, we stood our ground,” he said.
Aquino’s statement echoes that of Paul Reichler, one of the legal counsels of Washington-based law firm Foley Hoag that represented the country in the tribunal.
Reichler said the historic decision “vindicates” the Philippines’ claims, and likewise benefits other claimant nations.
“The Tribunal’s ruling not only benefits the Philippines, it also benefits other States bordering the South China Sea like Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. If China’s nine-dash line is invalid as to the Philippines, it is equally invalid to those States and, indeed, the rest of the international community,” Reichler said in a statement.(PNA)