While the international tribunal in The Hague favored the claims of the Philippines over strategic reefs and atolls at the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea as referred to internationally), Chinese President Xi Jinping, through state media said China’s “territorial sovereignty and marine rights” in the seas would not be affected by the ruling.
The tribunal on Tuesday, July 12 declared that “although Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other states, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.”
“The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line.’”
Xinhua, China’s official news agency said the was “ill-founded” ruling that was “naturally null and void.”
The Permanent Court of Arbitration's (PCA) landmark ruling was the first against China’s expansive claims, which has sparked international alarm and prompted the US to send warships on “freedom of navigation” patrols.
China has built artificial islands and massive structures on Spratlys reefs that are said could be fit for military use. It has also held Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground, since 2012 following a tense naval standoff. Filipino fishermen in the area have accused the Chinese of routine harassment that left them jobless.
The ruling from the permanent court of arbitration effectively punches holes in China’s all-encompassing “nine-dash” line that stretches deep into the South China Sea.
While the ruling was a “moral” victory, the Philippines could not compel China to leave its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), said Lauro Baja, the country’s former ambassador to the United Nations.
The ruling was made by an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both China and the Philippines have signed.
While the ruling is binding, the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement.
Foreign Affairs secretary, Perfecto Yasay Jr, said the country welcomed the ruling and called for “restraint and sobriety.”
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said before some of the country’s top corporate executives in the BusinessWorld Economic Forum on Tuesday that the Duterte administration will get things done faster. “[There will be] less thinking and not too much analysis—just action.”
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said what can be done by (executive order) is going to be done, while some items like the procurement law and tax reforms do have to go to legislation.
Pernia added that the Duterte administration will continue the good macroeconomic policies pushed by its predecessor, “but we want to make a big push toward regional and rural development, which was not given too much emphasis in the previous administration.”
The government is looking at more infrastructure projects in rural areas, with “quite a number” of developments lined up for implementation either through the public-private partnership (PPP) program or under the government budget, Dominguez said.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo said separately that the poor must be engaged in crafting poverty-alleviating measures and that companies must also embrace “business unusual” where shared value—not profit—is the driver of growth. – Lynda C. Corpuz
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