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Manila tells China: Comply with 2016 international arbitral ruling

West Philippine Sea sea dispute Philippines China

The Philippines on Sunday publicly called on China to comply with the 2016 arbitral ruling, which invalidated its massive claim over the resource-rich South China Sea, four years since the decision was handed down by an international court in The Hague, Netherlands.

"Compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) to which both parties are signatories," Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a statement.

"The Philippines, as a law-abiding, peace-loving and responsible member of the international community, reaffirms on this occasion its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change. The award is non-negotiable."

China insists “indisputable” and “historical” claim over virtually the entire South China Sea. Some parts of the waters that fall within Manila’s exclusive economic zone was renamed West Philippine Sea by the Philippine government.

Ruling in favor of the Philippines, the tribunal declared China’s claim as illegal and having no basis under international law. Beijing has ignored and belittled the ruling.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who had sought friendly ties with China in exchange for economic assistance, normalization of ties, trade and investments, has set aside the ruling, but vowed to raise it with China “at a proper time.”

Despite Duterte’s friendly overtures to China, Beijing has maintained an aggressive stance in the South China Sea and installed military outposts in its claimed territories in the contested waters even as it encroached on Philippine waters.

Duterte avoided criticizing such actions, but insisted that it will not concede a single inch of Philippine territory to China.

"The Tribunal authoritatively ruled that China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ had no basis in law. Rather, claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without legal effect," Locsin said.

He stressed that the arbitration award "conclusively settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea."

"The arbitration case initiated and overwhelmingly won by the Republic of the Philippines versus the People’s Republic of China is a contribution of great significance and consequence to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and to the peace and stability of the region at large," Locsin said.

He also called the award "a milestone in the corpus of international law, the cornerstone of a rules-based regional and international order."

The ruling, he added, "represents a victory, not just for the Philippines, but for the entire community of consistently law-abiding nations."

"We commemorate the issuance of the award as a celebration of the rule of law as a means to settle disputes amicably, achieve peace, advance a rules-based and equitable international order, foster cooperation among friendly, responsible and civilized nations and clearly mark out who would be in the wrong to insist on claims contrary to this award,'" Locsin said. —LBG, GMA News