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FULL TEXT: Aquino says maritime arbitration ruling ‘victory for all’

Former President Benigno Aquino III said the favorable ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration signifies a "victory for all." Malacañang Photo Bureau/Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the Philippines case against China is a “victory for all.”

Aquino described the ruling as a “fair judgment” and presented with “clarity.” He said he is elated that all the points that the Philippines raised before the international tribunal were affirmed. However, he said the resolution should not be considered a victory just for the country but also for all.

The Philippines filed a case against China in 2013 during Aquino’s term. The Chinese move to reclaim the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) which is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone prompted the government to file the case.

On Tuesday, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines saying that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights within the “nine-dash line.” It added that China violated the country’s sovereign rights by building artificial islands which affected the Philippine fishing industry. The international court also said that China's reclamation inflicted irreparable harm on the marine environment.

Aquino recognized that the Philippines’s move to pursue the case in the international arbitration court was not easy. He thanked those who took part in attaining the country’s journey to resolve the dispute. – Rosette Adel

Read the full text of Aquino’s statement regarding the case:

I reviewed the Press Release and Summary issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the “South China Sea Arbitration” (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China). I am, of course, quite elated particularly since all the points we had raised were affirmed.

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We want to thank the Permanent Court of Arbitration for their fair judgment, and we would also like to extend our gratitude for the clarity with which they presented their ruling.

Let us remember that the disputes in the Sea Known by Many Names have gone on for decades—from our perspective, stretching as far back as the 1970s. These conflicts have come about, primarily because of the differing opinions on each country’s rights and obligations. To this end, I would ask our countrymen and all people of goodwill to read the Press Release and Summary issued by the Tribunal, to gain a full understanding of the issues involved.

Let me emphasize: All countries that have made a comment on this issue, to our knowledge, have expressed adherence to international law. Indeed: International law has been made clearer with this monumental decision. This of course deals with the Philippines and China, clarifying each state’s rights and obligations; but as our lead counsel said, it also has very strong implications as far as other coastal states are concerned, with regard to UNCLOS.

At this point, may I suggest that 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.

Might I say: The decision to pursue arbitration was not an easy one to make. Going into arbitration was called a game-changer. We foresaw and experienced the pressures in taking this route; yet until the end, we stood our ground.

In this course, we involved all branches of government. During the consultations, we had the Senate as represented by then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and later on by Senator Franklin Drilon, as well as the House under the leadership of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. Former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada were unequivocal in their support. We also invited the Judiciary, which at that time, due to prudence on handling cases related to the matter, had to decline.

Allow me to reiterate my gratitude to all our countrymen and partners who have worked hard to defend our shared cause, specifically: then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, former Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, former Solicitors-General Francis Jardeleza and Florin Hilbay, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and now Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, Sandiganbayan Justice Sarah Fernandez, former Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista and Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, former Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr. and former Undersecretary Abigail Valte. We also thank the lawyers and experts who assisted our team, as led by Paul Reichler of the Washington-based law firm Foley Hoag.

Let us bear in mind: 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.

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