4 years later, Philippines says Hague ruling 'non-negotiable'

Four years since the Philippines won its historic case against China at the Hague, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr reaffirmed the country's commitment to enforcing the ruling, calling it "non-negotiable."

In a statement on Sunday, July 12, Locsin cited the award which asserted the Philippines' rights in the West Philippine Sea as a victory not only for the country, but all law-abiding nations.

"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," Locsin said. 

"The award is non-negotiable," he added. 

⁦ @cnnphilippines ⁩ ⁦ @gmanetwork ⁩ ⁦ @gmanews ⁩ ⁦ @daxlucas ⁩ ⁦ @manilabulletin ⁩ ⁦ @pnagovph ⁩ pic.twitter.com/1jgs0uZpDa — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) July 12, 2020

Why this matters. Locsin's statement explicitly mentioning the Philippines' commitment to the ruling follows years of downplaying the award by the Duterte administration. In the months that followed the handing down of the ruling in July 2016, the Philippines refused to enforce the award as China likewise failed to recognize it.

Recent months have also seen China push on with its aggressive efforts to assert its ownership over the South China Sea by conducting controversial military drills as well as naming features and districts in the strategic waterway. Beijing's moves were met with fierce opposition form Southeast Asian claimant states as well as the United States. 

In the previous year alone, the Duterte administration's policy in the West Philippine Sea was placed under scrutiny after the ramming and abandonment of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank (Reed Bank).

Right vs might. Locsin said the arbitration case which had been "overwhelmingly won" by the Philippines and was based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) "conclusively settles the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea."

In particular, Locsin reiterated that the ruling struck down as illegal China's 9-dash line, which it used to claim virtually the entire South China Sea. He also stressed that China's actions in the West Philippine Sea were found to have violated the Philippines' rights.

"The Tribunal ruled that certain actions within the Philippines' EEZ (exclusive economic zone) violated the Philippines' sovereign rights and were thus unlawful; that large-scale reclamation and construction of artificial islands caused severe environmental harm in violation of international conventions; that the large-scale harvesting of endangered marine species damaged the marine ecosystem; and that actions taken since the commencement of the arbitration had aggravated the disputes," he said. 

Locsin called on China to comply with the award in "good faith" as a signatory to UNCLOS. 

"Compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including UNCLOS to which both parties are signatories," he said. 

He added that the ruling will also be used to "clearly mark out who would be in the wrong to insist on claims contrary to this award." 

Experts earlier urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to use the 2016 Hague ruling as a way to push back against China's actions in their EEZs. Doing so, they said, would allow the countries to put up a united front in rejecting Beijing's expansive claims in the South China Sea. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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