Victory celebration in Manila led by Rogelio “Vonz” Santos, Jr. (center), formerly of New Jersey.

Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter

In a landmark decision, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague rejected China’s claim of ownership of the South China Sea (referred to as the West Philippine Sea by the Philippine Government).

The PCA unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines’ pleadings and positions filed with the Court in 2013.

The Tribunal concluded there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the “nine-dash line” unilaterally created by China during the early days of the arbitration case.

The Tribunal, in effect, ruled that China’s “nine-dash line” was invalid and, therefore, illegal under International Law and under UNCLOS.

The PCA ruled unanimously in favor of the Philippines’ position that it has sovereignty and exclusive rights over the Philippines economic zone as defined in UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which provides that a coastal state needs to have land before they can claim rights to the sea.

This international treaty has been signed and ratified by both the Philippines and China.

Thus, the PCA found “that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by (a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands, and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.”

The PCA also found “that China had caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems” in the South China Sea when they did massive reclamation and constructed artificial islands.

(It is now evident that the purpose why China “manufactured” artificial islands was in order to circumvent the UNCLOS provision requiring a state to have land before claiming rights to the sea.)

Filipinos around the world rejoiced over the Philippine victory.

No post-decision comment was attributed to newly-sworn President Rodrigo Duterte except a statement from Malacañang which said the Philippines was pleased with the results of the arbitration case against China.

Apparently, this quiet posture was in anticipation of negotiations in the future between the two countries.


Filipino-Americans during a rally in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York on July 12.  (Filipino Reporter photo by Marilyn Abalos)

Vice President Leni Robredo, on her part, released this statement:

“We are glad to read about the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration regarding the Philippines’ jurisdiction over our exclusive rights in our economic zone.

“We hope that both parties respect the ruling made today and that the dispute be solved peacefully.”

In New York City, Loida Nicolas Lewis, the community activist who started the global protest movement by overseas Filipinos against China three years ago, led a compliance demonstration and victory celebration by Filipino-Americans in front of the United Nations Headquarters on Tuesday.

In Manila, Rogelio “Vonz” Santos, Jr. led a group of Filipinos also in a compliance rally and victory celebration.

The demonstrators released red, white, blue and yellow balloons signifying the colors of the Philippine flag.  

Upon learning of the PCA decision, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated, “China’s territorial sovereignty and marine rights in the South China Sea will not be affected by the so-called Philippines South China Sea ruling in any way.”

China has repeatedly said in the past it will not recognize any PCA decision.

They did not participate in the PCA proceedings.

Non-compliance could create a big dent in the name of the Communist Party of China.

It will be a huge embarrassment for China and for the Chinese people to be branded “international outlaw.”

There will be reputational consequences in China’s quest to be a global power if they simply ignore the PCA ruling.

So, compliance with the PCA, can be viewed as for the best interests of China.

However, if China insists in not complying, authoritative observers see the Tribunal decision as advantageous to the Philippines and other claimant nations in future negotiations.

“In a way the Tribunal will not solve the South China Sea issue but will heavily influence future negotiations,” said Markus Gehring, a lecturer in law at Cambridge University.

“The Tribunal rulings will move the goal posts towards the Philippines and the smaller countries.”

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