MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:03 p.m.) - Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Tuesday called for "restraint and sobriety" after a milestone ruling by an international arbitration court that there is no basis for China's "nine-dash line" claim over a large part of the South China Sea.
In a statement read to the press, Yasay said the Philippines welcomes the award by the Arbitral Tribunal constituted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) "on the proceedings initiated by the Philippines with regard to the South China Sea."
The Philippines claims part of the South China Sea that is within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.
The panel said that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were wiped out if they are incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under a UN treaty like the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea, or UNCLOS.
"Our experts are studying the Award with the care and thoroughness that this significant arbitral outcome deserves. In the meantime, we call on those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety," Yasay said.
"The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea," he also said, adding the decision upholds international law and the UNCLOS.
Chinese state media has reported that China "does not accept or acknowledge" tribunal or its South China Sea ruling. It has refused to participate in the proceedings and has repeatedly said that it will not heed the decision, citing its historical claims.
'Sharing' the sea
Before the PCA handed down its ruling, Yasay had hinted in an Agence France-Presse interview that the Philippines expects to go into talks with China after the arbitration case is resolved.
“As the ruling will not address sovereignty and delimitation, it is possible that some time in the future, claimant countries might consider entering into arrangements such as joint exploration and utilization of resources in disputed areas that do not prejudice the parties’ claims and delimitation of boundaries in accordance with UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he later clarified
On June 30, during the first Cabinet meeting of the Duterte administration, Yasay spoke about an apparent wish by some foreign governments for Manila to issue a stronger statement about the dispute if the tribunal rules favorably.
The television feed of the Cabinet meeting was cut soon after. -- Jonathan de Santos with reports from the Associated Press