By Daniel Llanto
China declared anew that the Permanent Court Arbitration (PCA) 2016 ruling in favor of the Philippines over disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea is “illegal and invalid” after Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. issued a reminder to mark the fourth year anniversary of the historic Hague award.
The Chinese embassy in Manila said it has “taken note” of the statement Locsin Jr made but it will not recognize the arbitral award no matter if it confirmed the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“China’s position is consistent, clear and firm. The South China Sea arbitration and its so-called award are illegal and invalid,” the embassy said in a statement. “China does not accept or participate in the arbitration, nor does it accept or recognize the so-called award.”
Locsin earlier 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.”
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 and stressed that China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea were found to have violated the Philippines’ rights.
He then urged China, as a signatory to UNCLOS, to comply with the award in “good faith,” calling the ruling “non-negotiable.”
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippines’ arbitration victory against China is “non-negotiable”.
“The Arbitral 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,” Locsin said.
He added that the Philippines, as a law-abiding, peace-loving and responsible member of the international community, reaffirms its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change.
In a statement released on the occasion of the anniversary of the verdict, the embassy said Chinese “sovereignty and maritime rights” in the area will not be affected by the ruling.
“China firmly opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on aforesaid award. It has to be highlighted that China and the Philippines have already reached consensus on properly handling the so-called arbitration case, which has laid down solid ground for the turning-around of bilateral relations,” the embassy claimed.
Beijing said it hopes that with the current state of China-Philippines relations, the two country can work together to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.
“It is hoped that the Philippines could make concerted efforts with China in jointly securing the hard-won sound momentum of bilateral relations and upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the Embassy said.
On July 12 four years ago, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines’ arguments for maritime entitlements over the West Philippine Sea, rejecting China’s claims in the resource-rich area.
China however rejected the arbitral win, with no less than Chinese President Xi Jinping telling President Duterte to the latter’s face during their bilateral meeting in Beijing last year. China instead ramped up its militarization efforts in the vital waterway.
Last April, the DFA filed a diplomatic protest against China after a Chinese warship pointed a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in the West Philippine Sea.
In June last year, a Chinese vessel collided with a Filipino fishing boat and sank it, then left the boat’s crew floating in the middle of the sea.
Former Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario said Duterte can still raise the country’s arbitral win “before the world.” Last May, Indonesia cited the Philippines’ arbitral win in its own sea dispute with China.