DFA chief says PH arbitral win on West Philippine Sea ‘non-negotiable,’ as country marks 4th year of Hague ruling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — Four years after the Philippines won the arbitration case over the disputed South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called on China to adhere to the ruling, saying the arbitration award is “non-negotiable.”

The Philippines, he said Sunday, reaffirms "its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change.”

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the country and rejected China’s sweeping claims over virtually the entire sea areas falling within the “nine-dash line.” The tribunal also found that China had caused "severe harm" to the marine environment because of its land reclamations.

Despite the milestone ruling, Beijing still refuses to acknowledge the Philippines' victory.

“Compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) to which both parties are signatories,” Locsin wrote.

The DFA chief said the 2016 ruling “clearly marks out who would be in the wrong to insist on claims contrary to [the] award.” He added that the Hague pronouncement is a victory not only for the country, but for the “entire community of consistently law-abiding nations.”

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Meanwhile, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to raise before international organizations the country’s arbitration award.

“In the remaining years of his term, we believe that our president still has the opportunity to fulfill his promise to the Filipino people to raise the Award: this time, not before the Chinese President, but before the world,” del Rosario said Sunday.

The former DFA chief then cited surveys which found that the vast majority of the Filipinos want the country to assert its rights in the WPS, as well as to raise the issues to the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, among other international bodies.

After the decision was handed down in 2016, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has convinced Duterte to "shelve differences" to make way for joint oil and gas exploration with Beijing. The Duterte administration has also notably continued to nurture ties with China despite the latter’s continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea.