PH wins case vs China

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MORAL VICTORY Militant groups protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati before the United Nations arbitration tribunal’s ruling in favor of Manila in a maritime dispute with Beijing. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

Tribunal rules Beijing has no historical rights over disputed waters

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A UNITED Nations tribunal on Tuesday ruled unanimously in favor of the Philippines in a dispute over China’s claims to most of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), giving Manila legal basis to reassert its rights over maritime resources amid heightened Chinese activity in the contested waters.

In a hard-hitting, 501-page decision, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, tasked to settle disputes under a UN maritime treaty, invalidated the “nine-dash line” used by China to claim 90 percent of the South China Sea including the Spratly Islands and fishing areas within Philippine territory.

China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) within the South China Sea by “(a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone,” the tribunal said.

Manila–which lodged the suit against Beijing in 2013–welcomed the ruling but China reacted furiously, saying it “does not accept and does not recognize” the decision.

 Yasay

Yasay

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay called on “all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety” and said the decision upheld international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, who was part of the Philippine legal team that went to The Hague, said the ruling is final and cannot be appealed, and should pave the way for a diplomatic solution to the long-standing dispute that involves multiple claimants.

But Beijing, which refused to participate in the arbitration said the award “is null and void and has no binding force.”

Beijing “does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China,” it added, reiterating its long-standing position on the dispute.

‘No legal basis’
The tribunal junked China’s position that it has historic rights to the waters within the U-shaped nine-dash line, and maintained that Filipino fishermen enjoy fishing rights at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), which had been restricted by the Chinese Navy.

Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank “form part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China,” it said in a statement.

China’s historic rights, according to the tribunal, were “extinguished to the extent they were incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided” under Unclos.

There was also “no evidence China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources,” it said.

Moreover, China “inflicted irreparable harm to the marine environment, built a large artificial island in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea that formed part of the Parties’ dispute.”

China embarked on “large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratly Islands,” causing “severe harm to the coral reef environment.”

Chinese authorities were in fact “aware that Chinese fishermen have harvested endangered sea turtles, coral and giant clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea.”

The tribunal also ruled that the Spratlys, collectively or as a unit, do not generate extended maritime areas or EEZs for China, even with land reclamation and construction as well as the presence of official personnel.

“Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the tribunal found that it could — without delimiting a boundary — declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China,” it explained.

The arbitration panel was composed of Presiding Arbitrator Thomas Mensah of Ghana, Jean-Pierre Cot of France, Stanislaw Pawlak of Poland, Alfred Soons of the Netherlands and Rüdiger Wolfrum of Germany.

Warning issued
The Philippine Embassy in China has warned its citizens to beware of personal “threats” and avoid political debates.

Nationalist demonstrations are not rare in China, sometimes apparently with the tacit backing of authorities.

More than 20 Chinese police were positioned outside the embassy, with more in vans nearby–a significantly larger presence than usual–along with two lorries loaded with crowd control barriers, a possible indication that authorities expected protests.

Ahead of the decision, President Rodrigo Duterte had signaled he did not want to antagonize China, saying he would not “taunt or flaunt” a favorable ruling and would seek a “soft landing” with China.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping said earlier this month that Beijing would never compromise on sovereignty, adding, “We are not afraid of trouble.”

With AFP, MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO and Jomar Canlas

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18 Comments

  1. We should demand now that China withdraw all its forces in our EEZ. I say no to sharing of our eez to anyone. Duterte to contunue afp modernization. Kets stoo being a coward. Duterte said he will not go to war with china fir a reef. Well those reefs and surrounding areas have trillions worth of gas oul and fish on it uf doies not have a clue. If he wants ti eradicate poverty then our eez resources can be one of the answer. But if he sell out to china lijke gma did then we will be sorry and suffer again.

    • Sige, but did you know that Subi Reef, where China has dredged into an airfield, is more than 200 nautical miles away from Palawan and is thus outside the EEZ that the Tribunal has ruled on?

      Subi is quite close to Pag-Asa Island, but sayang, the Tribunal said **none** of the Spratlys gets an EEZ.

      Fiery Cross Reef with a bigger runway and port, is roughly 250 nautical miles from Palawan. Outside EEZ.

      Cuarteron Reef malayo din. It and Fiery Cross are probably within Malaysian EEZ emanating from Sabah, though.

      The major China-held features within 200 nautical miles from Palawan’s coast are. roughly from closest to furthest:
      a) Mischief Reef
      b) Hugest Reef
      c) Johnson South Reef
      d) Gaven Reef

      Then there is Taiwan-held Taiping island, only one bigger than Pag-Asa, which is right at 19x/20x miles from Palawan. Too close to call with my primitive tools.

    • Sige, but did you know that Subi Reef, where China has dredged into an airfield, is more than 200 nautical miles away from Palawan and is thus outside the EEZ that the Tribunal has ruled on?

      Subi is quite close to Pag-Asa Island, but sayang, the Tribunal said **none** of the Spratlys gets an EEZ.

      Fiery Cross Reef with a bigger runway and port, is roughly 250 nautical miles from Palawan. Outside EEZ.

      Cuarteron Reef malayo din.

      The major China-held features within 200 nautical miles from Palawan’s coast are. roughly from closest to furthest:
      a) Mischief Reef
      b) Hughes Reef
      c) Johnson South Reef
      d) Gaven Reef

      Then there is Taiwan-held Taiping island, only one bigger than Pag-Asa, which is right at 19x/20x miles from Palawan. Too close to call with my primitive tools.

  2. Emilio Aguinaldo on

    The poor Pilipinos are celebrating on the streets of Manila, believing they won their lawsuit against the PRC over the Spratly islands, little do they know that the Hague ruling is only good in paper but not in real life. Communist China has already said that the ruling is null and void and the Communist government does not recognize its ruling over China’s internal affairs. It does not change one small bit of China’s grip over the current status of the Spratly islands. Can a bunch of small islands of the P.I. can stand up to the big and mighty Chinese military? The RP likes to run to United States overtime it needs help. It has no military power to beat China if a war breaks out. So, let the fiesta continue in the streets of Manila, Rizal Park, SM Mega malls, at least it provides some entertainment to the poor masses.

  3. So this UNCLOS favorability on our claim means that we could put our own 9 DASH LINE on RP’s EEZ?

    Also no doubt some of fishermen deprived of their livelihood were forced to turn to shabu trafficking/smuggling just to feed their families, we cannot just let China take our food and gives us poison, but let us talk peace with them anyway.

  4. Ignacio Balbutin on

    Panatag shoal is ours and should be depended at all cost. “Never shall invaders trample our sacred shores”. The chinese are not only trampling our sacred shores but stealing our mineral and fishing resources in that area. With their illegal island building, they have destroyed big swath of coral reefs which are breeding place for fishes. They have prevented our fishermen in fishing right in our own territories. We should not be afraid of China. We have ally like Japan, the US and now with the ruling we have the international community in our favor. Let’s harness and maximize our friendship with the US. The President seems to be anti-american but let’s remember that it was the US who freed us from the yoke of more than 300 years of Spain’s domination. It was the US who freed us from the cruel Japanese occupation. It is beyond my understanding why our President is beholden to China when China has done nothing for us but only stealing and bullying us. The government should utilize the US naval force which is now operating in the west Philippine sea.

  5. The ruling is not necessarily 100% in favor of the Philippines.

    The tribunal ruled that none of the Spratlys are full-fledged islands entitled to an EEZ. Based on that, the Philippine EEZ in the vicinity of the Spratlys is only everything within 200 nautical miles off the west coast of Palawan.

    Therefore the tribunal weakens the Philippine claim to territory beyond 200 nautical miles by saying there is no self-sustaining territory to be claimed.

    For example, Pag-Asa Island has been ruled NOT to have an EEZ around it. If it had been granted an EEZ by the tribunal, many nearby rocks would have been included by the 200 mile scope. Sayang.

  6. China has always been a bully . Importantly , the Arbitration has legitimized the Philippines claim as well as the other neighboring country’s on the south china sea.

    This is the beginning of our stronger relationship with Japan ,US and others to remind China that they have to respect the rule of Law . Perhaps , even their own country were rights are being suppressed by their own government.

  7. I used to work for a joint venture company, Transocean Fishery and Industrial Corporation, a joint venture between Chinese and Filipino fishermen. The operation is a long line fishing to catch yellow and blue fin tunas. The Philippine government granted the joint venture if there will be understudies Filipinos to join the Chinese subsidiary vessels. The Chinese do not like the idea. Chinese go out to the Philippine sea and gathers red corals instead of catching tunas. The subsidiary vessels gather their corals loot and bring it to the mother vessel and transported to China for jewelries. The subsidiary vessels of the Chinese are run by (Yanmar engines) .

    The unethical joint venture destroyed a lot of Philippines corals and reefs. This article is an eye opener to all neighboring countries who will deal with China in the future.

    • I am a tax auditor in the U.S. for a very long time. I am sorry to say that the books and recorders of all I say all Chinese businesses in the US are fraudulent. Mind you this is in US territory. How about in the disputed waters where they can bully us to submission ? There is a big possibility that an armed conflict between Japan and China is about to happen. Remember the Sino Japanese war in our Oriental History ? China will definitely 100 per cent lose. That why they were called Paper Tiger. Their military will fold down and their lands will again be colonize.

  8. Of Course China, Like All Great Powers, Will Ignore an International Legal Verdict . In ignoring an upcoming verdict on the South China Sea, Beijing is following well-established precedent by great powers

  9. Secretary Yasay, be careful on your pronouncement regarding this dispute. I do not like you to be in trouble in your few days in office. I read that you are saying things that you should not be deciding. Let Duterte do the decision making and not you. Just a word of caution.

  10. It’s high time for our government to take action on China’s mining occupation of the Philippines.

    As the Asia Sentinel reported on November 12, 2012 (“China’s Filipino Gold Rush”), “With an estimated US$1 trillion in untapped mineral resources in the Philippines, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Chinese mining companies, many of them operating illegally, have been exporting gold, nickel and other precious minerals out through the island country’s porous coastal ports, where there are no customs officials and plenty of bribable officials to turn their eyes the other way.”

    Our mineral resources are being used by China as feedstock to manufacture weapons that can be use against us.

    If China will ignore the UN court ruling, the “Philippine government should retaliate by shutting down all nickel exports to China, and all the Chinese mining companies in the Philippines.”

    • 1. How to stop nickel exports to China only, and not any other country?
      2. How to ban only Chinese owned miners, and not other countries?

      How about we stop thinking punitive and look for positive things we can do to improve our country.