S. China Sea ruling a victory for all: ex-President Aquino

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2016 08:37 AM

President Benigno S. Aquino III answers questions directed to him by New York Times reporters Javier Hernandez and Floyd Whaley during an interview at the President’s Hall Sala of the Malacañan Palace on Thursday (May 19, 2016). (Photo by Joseph Vidal / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

MANILA - Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said the international tribunal's ruling denying China's claims in the South China Sea is a "victory for all", and not just one party over another.

In a statement, Aquino said the decision to pursue arbitration during his administration "was not an easy one to make."

"Going into arbitration was called a game-changer. We foresaw and experienced the pressures in taking this route; yet until the end, we stood our ground," he said.

The former president thanked the Permanent Court of Arbitration for its fair judgment, saying he is "quite elated particularly since all the points we had raised were affirmed."

He also pointed out that the disputes "in the Sea Known by Many Names have gone on for decades-from our perspective, stretching as far back as the 1970s."

"These conflicts have come about, primarily because of the differing opinions on each country's rights and obligations."

Aquino said "international law has been made clearer with this monumental decision"because it clarifies the rights and obligations of both China and the Philippines.

He added that the decision has very strong implications as far as other coastal states are concerned, with regard to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"At this point, may I suggest that instead of viewing this decision as a victory of one party over another, the best way to look at this judgment is that it is a victory for all. I say this because the clarity rendered now establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity," he said.

He added: "Let us bear in mind: Where there is conflict over claims and opinions, cooperation cannot exist. Now that the rules are even clearer, we can all move forward as a global community. Without doubt, this long-running dispute is now closer to having a permanent solution."

Aquino also thanked all partners who helped in the arbitration case, including:

then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario,
former Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr.,
former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,
former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima,
former Solicitors-General Francis Jardeleza and Florin Hilbay,
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio,
former Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and now Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa,
Sandiganbayan Justice Sarah Fernandez,
former Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista
Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra,
former Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr. and
former Undersecretary Abigail Valte.

"We also thank the lawyers and experts who assisted our team, as led by Paul Reichler of the Washington-based law firm Foley Hoag," he said.

PH-CHINA TENSION: How it all began

Protesters release balloons as they display placards while chanting anti-China slogans during a rally. Reuters

NO RIGHTS TO SEA

The Permanent Court of Arbitration on Tuesday ruled that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and that it has breached the Philippines' sovereign rights with its actions, infuriating Beijing which dismissed the case as a farce.

China claims most of the energy-rich waters through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Finding for the Philippines on a number of issues, the panel said there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers much of the South China Sea.

It said China had interfered with traditional Philippine fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal, one of the hundreds of reefs and shoals dotting the sea, and had breached the Philippines' sovereign rights by exploring for oil and gas near the Reed Bank, another feature in the region.

None of China's reefs and holdings in the Spratly Islands entitled it to a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, it added.

READ: Hague court's full ruling on Philippines vs. China

China's Foreign Ministry comprehensively rejected the ruling, saying its people had more than 2,000 years of history in the South China Sea, that its islands did have exclusive economic zones and that it had announced to the world its "dotted line" map in 1948.

China rejects Hague tribunal judgement: Xinhua

However, the ministry also repeated that China respected and upheld the freedom of navigation and overflight and that China was ready to keep resolving the disputes peacefully through talks with states directly concerned.

China's Defense Ministry said in a bilingual Chinese and English statement shortly before the ruling was made public that the armed forces would "firmly safeguard national sovereignty, security and maritime interests and rights, firmly uphold regional peace and stability, and deal with all kinds of threats and challenges".

The ruling is significant as it is the first time that a legal challenge has been brought in the dispute, which covers some of the world's most promising oil and gas fields and vital fishing grounds.

It reflects the shifting balance of power in the 3.5 million sq km sea, where China has been expanding its presence by building artificial islands and dispatching patrol boats that keep Philippine fishing vessels away.

The United States and China often conduct military exercises in the area and regularly accuse each other of militarizing the region. With Reuters

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STATEMENT OF BENIGNO S. AQUINO III ON THE RULING ISSUED BY THE PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION IN THE HAGUE ON THE CASE SUBMITTED BY THE PHILIPPINES
JULY 13, 2016

I reviewed the Press Release and Summary issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the "South China Sea Arbitration" (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People's Republic of China). I am, of course, quite elated particularly since all the points we had raised were affirmed.

We want to thank the Permanent Court of Arbitration for their fair judgment, and we would also like to extend our gratitude for the clarity with which they presented their ruling.

Let us remember that the disputes in the Sea Known by Many Names have gone on for decades-from our perspective, stretching as far back as the 1970s. These conflicts have come about, primarily because of the differing opinions on each country's rights and obligations. To this end, I would ask our countrymen and all people of goodwill to read the Press Release and Summary issued by the Tribunal, to gain a full understanding of the issues involved.

Let me emphasize: All countries that have made a comment on this issue, to our knowledge, have expressed adherence to international law. Indeed: International law has been made clearer with this monumental decision. This of course deals with the Philippines and China, clarifying each state's rights and obligations; but as our lead counsel said, it also has very strong implications as far as other coastal states are concerned, with regard to UNCLOS.

At this point, may I suggest that instead of viewing this decision as a victory of one party over another, the best way to look at this judgment is that it is a victory for all. I say this because the clarity rendered now establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity.

Might I say: The decision to pursue arbitration was not an easy one to make. Going into arbitration was called a game-changer. We foresaw and experienced the pressures in taking this route; yet until the end, we stood our ground.

In this course, we involved all branches of government. During the consultations, we had the Senate as represented by then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and later on by Senator Franklin Drilon, as well as the House under the leadership of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. Former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada were unequivocal in their support. We also invited the Judiciary, which at that time, due to prudence on handling cases related to the matter, had to decline.

Allow me to reiterate my gratitude to all our countrymen and partners who have worked hard to defend our shared cause, specifically: then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, former Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, former Solicitors-General Francis Jardeleza and Florin Hilbay, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and now Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, Sandiganbayan Justice Sarah Fernandez, former Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista and Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, former Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr. and former Undersecretary Abigail Valte. We also thank the lawyers and experts who assisted our team, as led by Paul Reichler of the Washington-based law firm Foley Hoag.

Let us bear in mind: Where there is conflict over claims and opinions, cooperation cannot exist. Now that the rules are even clearer, we can all move forward as a global community. Without doubt, this long-running dispute is now closer to having a permanent solution.