• Melo Acuna

Secretary Locsin says Tribunal's award disproved China's claims

“The award is non-negotiable,” says Foreign Secretary Locsin on the 4th anniversary of Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling

MANILA – Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling which rendered the unanimous award in the South China Sea Arbitration case four years ago was founded on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In a statement released on the 4th anniversary of the decision, Secretary Locsin said the case was initiated and overwhelmingly won by the Republic of the Philippines as opposed to the People’s Republic of China “is a contribution of great significance and consequence to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and to the peace and stability of the region at large.”

Secretary Locsin said the decision founded on the UNCLOS, the constitution for the world’s oceans, the award settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the marine rich South China Sea.

He said the “authoritative interpretation” of key UNCLOS provisions including Article 121(3), the award is a milestone in the body of international law, the cornerstone of a rules-based regional and international order.

The Philippine foreign secretary said the Arbitral Tribunal said China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the sea areas within the ‘nine-dash line’ had no basis in law.

“Rather, claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, we without legal effect,” he added.

Regarding the maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, Secretary Locsin said the Tribunal ruled that “none of the features in the Spratly Islands is capable of generating extended maritime zones and that the Spratly Islands cannot generate maritime zones collectively as a unit.” He also cited a part of the Tribunal’s decision that the Philippines could declare certain sea areas part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), “as these areas do not overlap with any possible entitlement claimed by China.”

Part of the Tribunal’s ruling was the finding that certain actions within the country’s EEZ violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights and thereby considered unlawful along with the large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands which caused extreme environmental harm in violation of international convention and the large-scale harvesting of endangered marine species damaged the marine ecosystem. He said the actions taken since the beginning of the arbitration “had aggravated the disputes.”

Secretary Locsin said compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including UNCLOS where both countries are signatories. He said the Philippines, a law-abiding and peace-loving and responsible member of the international community reaffirms on this day its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change.

“The award is non-negotiable,” he said.

Today the Philippines commemorates the award “as a celebration of the rule of law as a means to settle disputes amicably, achieve peace, advance a rules-based and equitable international order, foster cooperation amongst friendly, responsible an civilized nations and clearly mark out who could be in the wrong to insist on claims contrary to this award,” he said.

He went on the describe the arbitral tribunal’s award last July 12,2016 “represents a victory, not just for the Philippines, it for the entire community of consistently law-abiding nations.” (Melo M. Acuña)

Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (File Photo/Melo M. Acuña)

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