By ROY C. MABASA
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has unveiled a microsite on the July 12, 2016 Arbitral Award to provide links and resources organized in useful format to help the general public amid the “complex” issues faced by the Philippines in the South China Sea.
In a statement coinciding with the seventh anniversary of the Arbitral ruling on Wednesday, DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo said the Philippines regards the Award as a “significant contribution” to international law and the interpretation and application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“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,” according to Manalo, as he quoted DFA Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce as saying.
Manalo said that any claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdictions beyond the geographic and substantive limits of UNCLOS are “without legal basis” as the Award “conclusively settled” the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.
Apart from the links and formats related to the 2016 Arbitral ruling, the microsite will also provide links to resources including the material submitted to the Tribunal and made available by the Permanent Court of Arbitration; Statements of the DFA on the South China Sea Arbitration – starting with the statement made by the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on 22 January 2013, announcing the decision to pursue “UNCLOS Arbitral Proceedings against China to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute in the West Philippine Sea”; the legal and geographic scope of the West Philippine Sea, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions, among others.
As this developed, Japan said China’s claim that it will not accept the Award is against the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes based on UNCLOS and “undermines the rule of law as a fundamental value of the international community.”
“Japan renews its objection to maritime claims in the South China Sea that are inconsistent with UNCLOS and remains seriously concerned about the current situation,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, 16 countries from the European Union (EU) have expressed commitment to secure free and open maritime supply routes in the Indo-Pacific region in full compliance with international law, “in the interest of all.”
“The Award of the Arbitral Tribunal is a significant milestone, which is legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings, and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between the parties,” the EU Delegation said in a statement in commemoration of the July 12, 2016 Arbitral Award ruling.
The 16 EU Member States who issued the statement are the following: Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain. France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Slovakia (non-resident), Finland and Sweden.
On the other hand, the United States has called on China to cease its “routine harassment” of vessels from South China Sea claimant countries that are operating in their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
“The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020, policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea,” said Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US Department of State in a statement on Wednesday (US time) marking the seventh anniversary of the Arbitration ruling.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in the Hague released a ruling on the lawsuit brought by the Philippines, declaring China’s historical claim over nearly the entire South China Sea as illegal under UNCLOS.
Beijing has repeatedly said that it does not recognize the Arbitral ruling.
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