U.N. Tribunal Upholds RP’s Rights vis-à-vis China

boholano-thumbThe U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled on July 12, 2016: “China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, by constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.”

Under President Benigno S. Aquino III, the Philippines brought its case to the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013.

The full text of the ruling follows: “China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones  (EEZs) of the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian countries—Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam—and Taiwan. To bolster its sweeping claims, China has built artificial islands  on at least seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago, topping some of them with airstrips capable of receiving large military aircraft.”

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China has no legal basis for her historic claims. “Finding for the Philippines on a number of issues, the arbitration court said there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within its so-called nine-dash line, which demarcates Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea. xxx These “were incompatible with and extinguished by the exclusive economic zones provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNclos), under which the Philippines brought the case.”

“It said China had interfered with traditional Filipino fishing rights at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), located 210 kilometers from the coast of Zambales province and had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by exploring for oil and gas near Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the Spratly archipelago.

“Both Panatag Shoal and Recto Bank are within the Philippines 370-km EEZ, known locally as West Philippine Sea.”

“None of China’s reefs and holdings in the Spratlys entitled it to an EEZ,” the Court ruled.

Militarization hit. “The Tribunal declared “unlawful” China’s military buildup and activities in the Spratlys, saying parts of the archipelago are within the Philippines EEZ.

“It also considered the effect on the maritime environment of China’s land reclamation and artificial island building in the Spratlys and found that China had caused severe harm to coral reefs and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species.

“It also found that Chinese authorities were aware that Chinese fishermen have harvested endangered sea turtles, coral and giant sea clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea, using methods that inflict severe damage on the coral reef environment, and had not fulfilled their obligation  to stop the fishermen’s activities.

“It ruled that China’s large-scale land reclamation and artificial land building in the Spratlys was incompatible with the obligation  on a state during dispute resolution proceedings, in so far as China has inflicted irreparable harm  to the marine environment, built a large artificial island in the Philippines’ EEZ, and destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea that formed part of the dispute.

“China has always rejected charges that its activities in the South China Sea had formed part of the dispute.

“The U.N. arbitration judges acknowledged China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings, but said they sought to take account of China’s position on the basis of its statements and diplomatic correspondence.

First legal challenge. The U.N. arbitration “ruling is significant as it is the first time that a legal challenge has been brought in the dispute, which covers promising oil and gas fields and vital fishing grounds. The Philippine’s 15-point case hinged on the legal status of reefs, rocks and artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Ian Storey of Singapore’s ISEA Yusof Ishak Institute told Reuters: “This award represents a devastating legal blow to China’s jurisdictional claims in the South China Sea. China will respond with fury, certainly in terms of rhetoric and possibly through more aggressive actions at sea.”

Aggressive China, hospitable Philippines. China has certainly been belligerent and bullying as a political and economic world power.

On her part the Philippines has been a hospitable nation to its countless citizens of Chinese origin, many of whom are among the richest and most compliant in the country. Mabuting mga kapatid.

The Duterte Administration is responding to the U.N. Arbitration Court judgment favorably; but also with restraint and a view to negotiate with China. A statesmanly response to a bullying big neighbor. Mabuting Pangulo. Maayong laki! (By Jose “Pepe” Abueva)



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