Top Filipino legal minds applaud Arbitral Tribunal’s decision, advise Duterte to proceed with caution

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(File photo) President Rodrigo Duterte

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Top legal minds who supported the Philippines’ case against China applauded the decision of the arbitral tribunal throwing out the massive Chinese territorial claims over the South China Sea.

The tribunal, composed of five-member international panel of judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled on Tuesday in favor of the Philippines.

Also read: PH wins maritime arbitration case vs. China

Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, who prepared and filed the arbitration case against China in January 2013 when he was Solicitor General, said the Philippine legal team was hopeful for a favorable ruling.

“With this award … the rights and obligations of the parties under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) are now clarified,” Jardeleza told the media. “China is not entitled to exercise historic rights … beyond the limits of the entitlement under UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).”

Jardeleza, who was appointed Supreme Court Justice in 2014, said the award is a declaration of rights and entitlements and that it is legally “binding on China.”

The award, Jardeleza added, is a potent and legal platform for the Philippines. But he said that the country, led by President Rodrigo Duterte, should move forward cautiously toward its “political and diplomatic goals.”

“In the final analysis, the disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved diplomatically,” said Jardeleza.

“With this legal advantage, the chief diplomat and architect of our foreign policy, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, could now proceed at his disposal to get this job done,” he added.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has discredited China’s nine-dash line claim, said in a statement that the Tribunal’s ruling “re-affirms mankind’s faith in the rule of law in peacefully resolving disputes between States and in rejecting the use or threat of force in resolving such disputes.”

Carpio in his lectures debunked China’s claims of entitlement through “historic rights,” saying that even if it was true, these rights have been superseded by the UNCLOS.

Watch: SC Justice speaks about PH's maritime case vs. China

“The ruling also re-affirms UNCLOS as the Constitution for the oceans of our planet, a treaty ratified by 167 States, including China and the Philippines,” Carpio said. “The ruling applies the fundamental law of the sea principle that ‘land dominates the sea,’ that is, any claim to maritime zones must emanate from land and can extend only to the limits prescribed under UNCLOS.”

“No state can claim almost an entire sea contrary to this fundamental principle and maritime limits,” he added.

Also read: The Philippines-China arbitration case

Former Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima in a statement said the ruling “is a welcome affirmation of our right to our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).”

De Lima added that the ruling limits “China’s expansionist plans in the West Philippine Sea” and gives the Philippines international legal basis under the UNCLOS to challenge China’s “further expansionist moves.”

With this ruling, De Lima hopes that the present administration “will be properly guided in its future actions.”

De Lima called on the administration to utilize this ruling together with the country’s allies like the United States and Japan, to the utmost “in defense of our sovereignty, EEZ entitlements and freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea.”

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.

Also read: Why the Philippines' South China Sea legal case matters