Philippines wins case vs. China over West Philippine Sea dispute

After a three-year wait, the International Arbitral Tribunal has ruled in favor of the Philippines in the arbitration case over the West Phlippine Sea dispute.

The 501-page historic decision was handed down on Tuesday, July 12 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.

(Image Credit: Department of Foreign Affairs)

The Tribunal concluded that China's claim of historic rights to the sea areas as falling within the 'nine-dash line' has no legal basis.  It also noted that China has interfered with the Philippines' traditional fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal. China also breached the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone when it conducted oil and gas explorations near the Reed Bank.

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines "won all" the 15 points it submitted to the Tribunal, against China's intrusion in the West Philippine Sea, filed during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who strongly supported the country's claims said, "The ruling re-affirms UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the Constitution for the oceans of our planet, a treaty ratified by 167 States, including China and the Philippines."

Meanwhile, current Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said in a press conference, "We call on all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety. The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea."

Japan and Vietnam welcomed the ruling but Taiwan reportedly did not accept the ruling, according to Reuters, saying it jeopardized Taiwan's territorial rights. Taiwan occupies Itu Aba, an island in the the highly disputed area.

As expected, China's Foreign Ministry rejected the ruling. It maintains its "territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea" will not be affected by the ruling. "China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards," China's Foreign Ministry reiterated.

But Reuters noted a conciliatory tone by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he said that things are now back on track since President Duterte's administration is sincere in improving ties.

Everyone is expecting the Philippines will use the favorable ruling as some sort of a leverage when it negotiates with China regarding the South China sea.

The present administration waited for this ruling, with Duterte saying that if the ruling is favorable to the Philippines, then it's time to talk. He said, "We are not prepared to go to war, war is a dirty word."

The negotiations will be closely watched, not only by the parties concerned, but also by Washington, since the Philippines has been a longtime ally of the US.

Other countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, which also feels "bullied" by China and have territorial claims in the South China sea will also be watching. Will they file their own cases as well?

As for ordinary Filipinos, they will be closely monitoring how the current administration will deal with the ruling.

The hashtag #Chexit keeps cropping up, with a lot of Filipinos saying it's about time for China to get out of Scarborough.

But a lot of Filipinos are skeptical that China will move out of Scarborough anytime soon.

Some social media commenters are now recalling Duterte's campaign rhetorics that he will ride a jetski to Spratlys and plant a flag there. Nobody expects him to do that in reality but it seems, how Duterte will handle China and Scarborough after this tribunal ruling, would be another litmus test to his Presidency.
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