The UN tribunal in The Hague hand down the much-awaited decision on the territorial dispute case over South China Sea. It ruled that China’s expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.
“Finally, the Tribunal considered the Philippines’ request for a declaration that, going forward, China shall respect the rights and freedoms of the Philippines and comply with its duties under the Convention. In this respect, the Tribunal noted that both the Philippines and China have repeatedly accepted that the Convention and general obligations of good faith define and regulate their conduct,” as stated in the ruling.
Prior to the ruling, the Philippine’s new president has shown an inclination of entering into a joint exploration deal with China. As soon as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won during the last elections last May, he issued several statements showing a possibility that his administration would take a different route in dealing with China.
Earlier, the Philippine’s foreign minister Perfecto Yasay said that the nation is open to the possibility of sharing the resource-rich South China Sea with its Chinese counterpart. China, on the other hand, has been urging the new administration of Duterte for friendlier relations as the two nations settle the issue, the Japan Times reported.
“As the ruling will not address sovereignty and delimitation, it is possible that some time in the future, claimant countries might consider entering into arrangements, such as joint exploration and utilization of resources in disputed areas that do not prejudice the parties’ claims and delimitation of boundaries in accordance with UNCLOS,” Yasay was quoted as saying.
Yasay, however, was quick to add that the Philippines would need to study and look into possible implications if the country would take that route, that is, sharing the area with China.
It can be recalled that Duterte’s predecessor, former president Benigno Aquino, elevated the decade-long battle for sovereignty on the vast maritime zone before the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. By October 2015, the court ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case.
China, meanwhile, remained firm that it won’t participate nor recognize the ruling of the court regardless of the outcome. China has issued a stern warning against other nations taking part in the issue other than the claimant countries, especially the United States, to back off from the issue.
South China Sea Dispute Briefer
In 2013, the Philippines, headed by its chief executives outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, has filed a territorial dispute against China invoking its sovereignty in some islands in the vast South China Sea.
To back its claim, the Philippines invoked provisions of the international treaties, including the vital provisions of the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Cases concerning UNCLOS are heard by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
In October 2015, the international tribunal decreed that it has a jurisdiction over the case after around two years of examining documents from the Philippines. Since day one, China already signified it would not participate in the proceedings, regardless of the outcome, as previously reported by the Morning News USA.
The Philippines’ Claim
Invoking provisions of the UNCLOS to which China is one of the signatory countries, the Philippines claims that it has sovereignty over some islands that are within its 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
To support its claim, the Philippines has presented historical evidences, which includes international treaties and even old maps dating up to the 18th centuries, showing that the islands or maritime zone is either annexed to the Philippines or part of its territory.
China claims roughly 90 percent of the vast and probably one of the most vital maritime zones in the world. In invoking its sovereignty over the disputed area, China has been using historical accounts and old maps. But the international community considers China’s claim as inconsistent with the international law, as reported by the New York Times.
On May 13, Pentagon released a report saying that China has already built facilities in a total of 3200 acres of the disputed island.
China also invoked its unilaterally-accepted nine-dash-rule in cementing its claim over the vast maritime zone. Other than the Philippines, neighboring countries have their individual claims in the South China Sea, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia, among others.