Locsin on the award on South China Sea arbitration: Award ‘is final’, ‘milestone in int’l law’

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Posted at Jun 23 2021 02:48 AM

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MANILA—The award on the South China Sea arbitration "conclusively settled the status of historic rights and maritime entitlements" in those waters, Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a statement posted on the department's social media accounts Tuesday night. 

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidating China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

The award, Locsin added in his statement, "declared as without legal effect claims that exceed geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements" under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

According to the Secretary, the arbitral award "became and continues to be a milestone in the corpus of international law." 

"It is available to other countries with the same problematic maritime features as ours. 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," Locsin said. 

"In summary, the award gives littoral states guideposts on how much waters their features — be they islands or rocks — can generate, where their fishermen can fish, where they can exercise law enforcement patrols, where they can send their ships without permission from the nearest state, without creating a cause of action or a casus belli between them." 

The award also "benefits the world across the board," he added. 

"We do not see it as directed at any other country, near or far. We see it as it should be seen: as favoring all which are similarly situated by clarifying definitively a legal situation beyond the reach of arms to change," Locsin said. 

"It puts this aspect of international law beyond the limit of prescription." 

Locsin said he echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement at the UN General Assembly that the award "is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon." 

According to Locsin, 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."

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

Locsin also recalled that in 2012 the Philippines "were David all alone, up against Goliath, amid hosts of indifferent spectators. We had not a friend or ally; we were lucky to get any attention at all. And then we prevailed. Or rather right prevailed."

"For the arbitral award was given to a set of maritime circumstances that would be as true in our waters as in others’. It is the legacy that a not rich country leaves to mankind along with a greater prospect of peace and cooperation," he added.

"Might does not make right. But then neither does right make might. Right alone produces almost nothing. Nothing but conviction. And that we have. 

"That the rest of the world is coming around to our point of view means as little to us now as it did then when we fought alone. 

"But my President has been more courteous by saying at the UN: 'We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the Award and what it stands for the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This is the majesty of law'."

He added that "the present that we need and the future that we want is a peaceful South China Sea. 

"The Philippines is committed to this for as long as it exists. 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 arbitral award made clear that the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the West Philippine Sea. China does not recognize the ruling and has instead ramped up its militarization efforts in the vital waterway.

Duterte has repeatedly faced criticism in the past for refusing to invoke the Philippines' victory, which was handed down at the start of his term. The arbitration case was initiated by the administration of his predecessor Benigno Aquino III.

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