PH wins maritime arbitration case vs. China

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — An international panel of judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled on Tuesday in favor of the Philippines in a case against China’s claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

The five-member Arbitral Tribunal upheld the Manila’s position that China’s “nine-dash line” maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Read: Who are the judges of the Arbitral Tribunal?

The "nine-dash line" is China’s purported historical boundary that covers about 85 percent of the South China Sea, including 80 percent of the Philippines’ EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.

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The judges ruled that:

  • There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the "nine-dash line"
  • None of the Spratly Islands grant China an EEZ
  • The tribunal could — without delimitating a boundary — declare that certain areas in the Spratly Islands are within the Philippines' EEZ
  • China had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its EEZ by interfering with fishing and petroleum exploration, constructing artificial islands, and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone
  • Chinese authorities did not fulfill their obligation to stop Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles, corals, and giant clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea
  • China's large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands was incompatible with the obligations on a state during dispute resolution proceedings

China refused to accept the arbitration and participate in the proceedings. However, it published a "Position Paper" in December 2014 that explained why the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case.

"The subject-matter of the Philippines' claims is in essence one of territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the Convention and does not concern the interpretation or application of the Convention," the document said.

DFA calls for sobriety

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) called the ruling a "milestone decision" which would serve as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea.

DFA Secretary Perfecto "Jun" Yasay Jr. said experts were already studying the decision "with the care and thoroughness that this significant arbitral outcome deserves."

"In the meantime, we call on all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety," Yasay said.

He added that the Philippines would continue to pursue a peaceful resolution of the dispute and to promote peace and stability in the region.

Meanwhile, summing up the arguments of the Philippines, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio — a member of the Philippine delegation to The Hague — said Beijing's "nine-dash line" is void.

Former President Benigno Aquino III and his foreign secretary, Albert Del Rosario, has often said in regard to the maritime dispute with China: “What is ours is ours.”

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The decision culminates more than seven months of deliberations after the Tribunal's President, Judge Thomas Mensah adjourned hearings on November 30 last year.