MANILA - The Philippines cannot drive China out of the Scarborough Shoal or the artificial islands in the Spratlys even if it wins an international arbitration case, Manila’s former envoy to the United Nations said Monday.
A favorable ruling from the Arbitral Tribunal based in The Hague, which is expected late Tuesday, will be more of a “moral victory,” former ambassador Lauro Baja told ABS-CBN News.
"The ruling will not solve the situation in the West Philippine Sea by itself," he said.
"Knowing China and knowing the realities of international relations and dynamics on the ground or on the sea, they will not (leave)," said Baja, who as diplomat helped draft a 2002 agreement that called for code of conduct among claimants to South China Sea outcrops.
The tribunal, which operates under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), does not decide on issues of sovereignty and China refused to participate in the arbitration, insisting on bilateral talks.
The Philippines asked the court to clarify its rights to exploit resources within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. An EEZ is not sovereign territory under international law.
China has controlled the Scarborough Shoal since 2012, following a months-long naval standoff. Filipino fishermen have accused the Chinese of routine harassment that left them jobless.
Since the Philippines filed the arbitration case in 2014, China has built massive structures fit for military use on several reefs in the Spratlys, sparking fears it could restrict air and sea traffic in the area.