• Ambassadors hail UN tribunal ruling

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    The Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc. (PAFI) has hailed the ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippines’ case against China over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

    “It [UN arbitral tribunal] has awarded the Philippines a sweeping victory on all the significant points raised by [the country]to the tribunal. The tribunal’s decision is now part and parcel of international law deserving the respect and observance of the global community of nations,” PAFI said in a recent statement issued through its chairman, Ambassador Lauro Baja Jr.

    It cited members of the Philippine panel sent to The Hague in The Netherlands for presenting authoritatively Manila’s case before the tribunal.

    The ambassadors foundation pointed out the important role that career officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) played in the building and crafting of the “landmark case.”

    It said the victory in The Hague resulted from the DFA’s determined efforts in recent decades “to develop a professional competency in maritime affairs crucial to [the department’s]role as the frontline defense of the country.”

    The foundation urged the Duterte administration to take vigorous and appropriate measures to bring about implementation of the tribunal’s ruling consistent with the Filipinos’ desire and aspirations for the peace, progress and stability of the Philippines and the region.

    These measures, it said, should necessarily include and entail effective diplomacy and negotiation.”

    “It is hoped that all parties involved will see in the tribunal’s elucidation of relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos], widely regarded as mankind’s Constitution of the Oceans, an opportunity for peacefully settling the disputes in the South China Sea , this great waterway vital to the welfare and economy of the peoples not only of the region but of the inter-dependent world as a whole,” PAFI added.

    The UN court upheld the Philippines’ right to exploit natural resources in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under Unclos.

    This meant that China’s claim to almost 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, which was based on Chinese maps dating back to the 1940s marked with “nine-dash line,” was invalid.

    “Almost all what we asked had been counted by the panel,” Baja, former DFA undersecretary for policy and Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN, told The Manila Times a few hours after the tribunal handed down its decision on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

    The ruling, he said, proved the relevance of the 1992 Asean Declaration on the South China Sea, which was adopted by foreign ministers in a meeting in Manila.

    Under the declaration, the Asean countries agreed to “resolve all sovereignty and jurisdictional issues pertaining to the South China Sea by peaceful means, without resort to force.”

    The challenge for the Philippines now, according to Baja, is to enforce the decision and manage tensions in the contested waters.

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