MANILA, Philippines – Former President Benigno Aquino III, whose administration filed the case against China before the UN-backed arbitral tribunal, said the historic ruling “is a victory for all” since it now allows countries to engage each other “within a context that espouses equality and amity.”
He said: "Without doubt, this long-running dispute is now closer to having a permanent solution."
In a statement a day after the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration issued what he described as a "monumental decision" in favor of the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, Aquino also asked Filipinos to take time to read the summary of the arbitral award “to gain a full understanding of the issues involved.”
The decision to bring China to court was a “game changer” but one that “was not an easy one to take,” Aquino said.
He added: “I am, of course, quite elated particularly since all the points we had raised were affirmed.”
The former President said: “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.”
Aquino acknowledged the “pressures” that his administration had to put up with after it filed the case in 2013. “Yet, until the end, we stood our ground.”
He echoed what Paul Reichler, the Philippines' lead counsel in this case, said in reaction to the ruling, that it has strong implications for other coastal states. (READ: PH lawyer vs China: This is a victory for rule of law)
Under Aquino, the Philippine government on January 22, 2013 filed an arbitration case against China at the United Nations-backed PCA to settle the maritime dispute. The Philippines invited China to join the proceedings. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court)
A month later, China rejected the move, saying Manila's claim is "legally infirm and carried unacceptable allegations against Beijing." (READ: Timeline: The Philippines-China maritime dispute)
In his statement, Aquino also thanked select lawmakers and key members of his Cabinet and the executive department, as well as the Philippines' lawyer in the case, Reichler.
Below is the full statement of former President Aquino:
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).
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. – Rappler.com