Alvarez lauds PH victory in sea case
Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, the presumptive Speaker of the 17th Congress, has lauded the arbitration decision favoring the Philippines in the maritime dispute against China.
“I join the Filipino people in welcoming the decision of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines in the case we filed contesting China’s claim over virtually all of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea,” said Alvarez in a statement.
The pick of President Rodrigo Duterte to lead the House of Representatives urged China to respect the decision of the arbitral court which ruled that its historic nine-dash line had no historic and legal basis and that the West Philippine Sea falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“We should urge China as part of the community of nations to respect the decision of the arbitral court and adhere to the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes in accordance with international law,” Alvarez said in the statement.
He congratulated the Philippine delegation to the Hague led by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio “for the rigorous research on the issue and helping the government and our people better understand its nuances and ramifications for the nation and our foreign policy.”
Alvarez said the lower House would study the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration to plan the country’s next moves, particularly on stepping up its economic exploration efforts in the waters and in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Letter, spirit of Unclos
For his part, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, who taught international law at the University of the Philippines College of Law, said the tribunal decision was a “very big win for the Philippines.”
He said the UN-backed court applied the “letter and spirit” of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in favoring the Philippines in the arbitration case.
The Unclos is the primary international law which governs maritime disputes on overlapping maritime zones. However, Unclos does not govern territorial disputes, which are sovereignty or ownership issues over land territory.
Roque said the decision would be favorable in going back to the negotiating table with China where the Philippines would have the upper hand, since the islands being claimed by China were not large enough to generate their own exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles.
“We should return to the negotiating table with China, take advantage of the decision of the court, and settle the issue of conflicting claims within the Spratly Islands once and for all,” Roque said in a statement.
“The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration itself will facilitate an early settlement of the issue because none of the islands can generate an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, which will make the process of negotiation a lot easier,” he added.
Roque noted however that the tribunal had no jurisdiction in settling claims to the islands, even though the UN court ruled that China could not invoke its nine-dash line as a valid, legal basis for its maritime expansionist goals.
“Since the Juridical Regime of Historic Waters is not among the maritime zones under the Unclos, China cannot invoke the nine-dash-line clam as a valid legal basis for its maritime expansion in the West Philippine Sea,” Roque said.
Strengthens PH position
“Nonetheless, the ruling does not settle the entirety of the dispute as it involves claims to islands, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos),” he added.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate lauded the ruling which “strengthens and solidifies the Philippine position in future bilateral talks with China, especially now that her expansionist nine-dash line theory is declared without legal, historical and moral basis.”
“China has already reclaimed at least seven of our reefs such as the Panganiban (Mischief), Mabini (Johnson South), Gavin (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Hughes (Kennan), Malvar (Eldad) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs, that are clearly within Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone but hardly anything has been done by the previous administration (of President Benigno Aquino III) to effectively address it,” Zarate said.
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