7 years since historic arbitral win, DFA says West Philippine Sea ruling 'benefits the world'

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
7 years since historic arbitral win, DFA says West Philippine Sea ruling 'benefits the world'
In this undated handout photo received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on April 25, 2021, coast guard personnel conduct maritime exercise near Pag-asa island in the West Philippine Sea.
AFP / Philippine Coast Guard, Released

MANILA, Philippines — Seven years since the Philippines won its arbitration case against China, the foreign affairs department has reiterated the significance of the landmark ruling and its contribution to the development of international law.

In a statement Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it continues to welcome international support for the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping claims over parts South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

“It is a settled landmark and a definitive contribution to the progressive development of international law. It is ours as much as it is the world's,” the DFA said. 

“Just as lighthouses aid vessels in navigating the seas, the award will continue to illuminate the path for all who strive toward not just the peaceful resolution of disputes but also the maintenance of a rules-based international order,” the DFA added.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations ruled in 2016 that China's nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters is invalid. 

Since then, the arbitral ruling has been repeatedly invoked by the Philippines and other nations with overlapping claims in response to Chinese maritime aggression.

Beijing has largely dismissed the international ruling, claiming it has no legal basis.

The DFA said the tribunal ruling has “since facilitated the plotting of new paths and trajectories, reflecting the rich maritime heritage of our country and our people, firm in the conviction that our rights over our maritime jurisdictions are indisputable.”

“We will continue to translate the positive outcomes of the Award into positive gains for our people to secure our legitimate interests in our maritime domain, and to promote peace, security and prosperity in our region,” the DFA added.

RELATED: The verdict: Philippines wins arbitration case vs China 

DFA microsite 

The DFA on Wednesday also launched a microsite dedicated to providing the public with official information on the country's 2016 maritime victory. 

The microsite will include links to the Philippines' latest statements on its maritime row with China and explainers related to its defense of the West Philippine Sea.

“We understand that the issue is complex and may be confusing, so this is an attempt to clear some of the fog. It is a work-in-progress site, but I feel it is an important start to gaining a better understanding of the complex issues faced by the Philippines in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea,” DFA Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce said.

Oil and gas reserves

China and other countries stand to gain economically from claiming ownership over the West Philippine Sea and the broader South China Sea.

In 2013, the United States Geological Survey revealed that the South China Sea harbors substantial energy reserves, with an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil and a minimum of 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proven and probable reserves.

Specifically, the Recto Bank is believed to hold the majority of oil and natural gas reserves in the South China Sea. 

The 2016 ruling declared Recto Bank to be a part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

West Philippine Sea as the world’s common heritage

In addition to the calls to protect the West Philippine Sea for the preservation of the country's sovereignty, scientists and research institutions have emphasized the importance of declaring it a Marine Protected Area to safeguard its abundant marine resources.

Ben Malayang, professor emeritus of Environmental Policy and Governance Institute of Environmental and Marine Science at Silliman University, has said that the world also has a stake in reducing threats to WPS because of the waters' shield-like function against a warming climate. 

“For that reason, we can see the West PH Sea is very important ecologically to the entirety of the South China Sea and even beyond,” Malayang told Philstar.com. 

“It is our common heritage."

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