FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday hailed the international tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines’ claims to the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) as a “victory for all,” as his former Foreign Affairs chief said it was now time for the country to be “magnanimous.”
“Instead of viewing this decision as a victory of one party over another, the best way to look at this judgment is that it is a victory for all. I say this because the clarity rendered now establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity,” Aquino said in a statement.
Tributes to the previous Aquino administration poured on social media on Wednesday, with netizens crediting the former president for initiating the victorious legal case before the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration that settles international maritime disputes.
Aquino thanked the tribunal, based in The Hague in The Netherlands, for the “fair judgment,” saying he was “quite elated particularly since all the points we had raised were affirmed.”
“Where there is conflict over claims and opinions, cooperation cannot exist. Now that the rules are even clearer, we can all move forward as a global community. Without doubt, this long-running dispute is now closer to having a permanent solution,” he said.
His former Foreign Affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, said the ruling will have wide-ranging implications on maritime conduct in the South China Sea and should be used as leverage in diplomatic channels.
“If you take a look at the [decision], it has ruled on many aspects which affect not only the Philippines, but other nations of the world that will benefit from the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” del Rosario said in a television interview.
“This is a victory for all because it benefits the whole world and people will, of course, enjoy these benefits,” he added.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who were part of the Philippine legal team at The Hague, admitted that China will not face sanctions, but risks harming its international reputation.
They agreed that the next steps should be diplomatic rather than confrontational.
“Having a legal right is different from enforcement. Enforcement is a different matter,” Hilbay pointed out.
But “China is bound by the decision, so everyday of violation is a non-compliance with the decision,” he said.
Hilbay particularly referred to the structures China built on areas of the West Philippine Sea.
While China is occupying the disputed territories, the Philippines has the legal title to such areas.
“In layman’s terms, China occupies the land but we have the title to it,” Hilbay said.
Jardeleza said the government should resort to peaceful means to resolve the dispute.
“It has been the consistent view of the legal team that this Award will be a potent legal platform as our country moves forward to the political and diplomatic phase of our goal of effectively asserting our maritime entitlements under Unclos [United nations Convention on the Law of the Sea],” Jardeleza said.