Locsin: South China Sea ruling a 'North Star' that 'benefits the world'
FILE - This March 7, 2021 photo shows Chinese maritime militia ships moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
NTF-WPS via Philippine Coast Guard

Locsin: South China Sea ruling a 'North Star' that 'benefits the world'

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - June 23, 2021 - 11:25am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday night asserted that Manila's arbitral in the West Philippine Sea is "final" and "benefits the world" ahead of its fifth anniversary next month.

On July 12, 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

This has not kept Chinese vessels out of the West Philippine Sea and President Rodrigo Duterte has called the decision "just a piece of paper" that he will "throw away."

At the beginning of his term, the president also said that he would "set aside" the award to pursue closer ties with China. 

READ: Duterte touts ‘win-win cooperation' with China amid West Philippine Sea policy criticism

Locsin, however, said the award "is final. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it; nay, even erase it from law, history and our collective memories."

Locsin also stressed that Duterte called the award "beyond compromise" and "part of international law" at last year's UN General Assembly — a statement that the DFA said is the official Philippine position instead of the president's comments.

"For as long as nations abide by the rule of law and not of military might, the Award is the North Star that will keep us on course in the present, and that will point us back to the right direction in the future should we, in a moment of weakness or inaction, lose our way." 

"The present that we need and the future that we want is a peaceful South China Sea," Locsin added. "The Philippines is committed to this for as long as it exists." 

Locsin: Arbitral win 'our gift to all countries without exception' 

In addition to invalidating China's "nine-dash line" which was used to justify its expansive claims, Locsin said the award also thwarted "any expectation that possession is 9/10ths of the law." 

This makes the arbitral award "a milestone in the corpus of international law," that "is available to other countries with the same problematic maritime features as ours," Locsin said. "It puts one issue out of the way of conflict; because there is nothing there taken by force that results in any gain in law. " 

He further celebrated the award as the Philippines' "gift to all countries without exception." 

"The Philippines is proud to have contributed to the international rules-based order, to the affirmation of UNCLOS, and the strengthening of the legal order over the seas," Locsin said. 

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, however, has warned that the decades-old UNCLOS treaty will "collapse" if China succeeds in taking over the rest of the South China Sea. Carpio was a key member of the Philippine delegation to the Hague. 

Chinese ships still reportedly enter the West Philippine Sea despite Manila's many diplomatic protests. 

READ: More than 100 additional ships detected in West Philippine Sea — report

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