- The arbitration court in The Hague has finally ruled in favor of the Philippines
- The Tribunal said there is no legal basis in China’s historic claims and that it violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines
- China is now under international pressure to recognize the ruling or face the possibility of being branded an international outlaw
MANILA, Philippines – The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands has finally ended all speculations after it sided with the Philippines in the raging maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
For days, the international community anxiously waited in anticipation following the PCA’s press release dated June 29 saying the Tribunal will issue its award on Tuesday, 12 July 2016.
China, despite its insistence to ignore the outcome of the proceedings, wages what analyst termed as ‘propaganda overdrive’ in an attempt to preempt the arbitration court’s decision and underscore its long-held position a few days leading to the release of the much-awaited decision.
In a press release, 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'”.
“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,” the statement further read.
The Tribunal also found China violating the sovereign rights of the Philippines by encroaching into the latter’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by “interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.”
The decision, which was released on Tuesday, at past 11:00 am local time, further added: “The Tribunal further held that Chinese law enforcement vessels had unlawfully created a serious risk of collision when they physically obstructed Philippine vessels.”
An international outlaw
On January 22, 2013, the PCA officially received the notification and statement of claim in the disputed territories in the West Philippines Sea submitted by Manila; primarily questioning China’s so-called ‘nine-dash line’ territorial boundary which is encroaching into the former’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In February of the same year, China rejected the Philippines’ notification and has since refused to participate in the proceeding.
The Philippines scored its initial victory in October 2015 after the tribunal ruled it has jurisdiction in the territorial dispute that has caused diplomatic rift not only between the rival parties, but among China and other regional powerhouses like Australia, Japan and the United States.
Following the court’s recent decision, it is not clear yet how China will react in the face of an international pressure and of being labeled an international outlaw if it continues to disregard the ruling.