12 July 2022
Today we commemorate the 6th anniversary of the Award on the South China Sea Arbitration. More than a historic milestone whose value lies in its commemorative significance, we recall 12 July 2016 as the day that affirmed to the community of nations that the rule of law prevails, and that stability, peace and progress can only be attained when founded on a rules-based legal order on the oceans, as it should be everywhere else.
The Award and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are the twin anchors of the Philippines’ policy and actions on the West Philippine Sea.
The year 2022 is also the 40th anniversary of the adoption of UNCLOS. UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. There is no recourse to general international law on matters comprehensively covered by the UNCLOS. Compliance with UNCLOS, which represents a delicate balance of the rights and obligations of all States Parties, in its entirety is key to ensuring global and regional peace and the fair and sustainable use of the oceans.
The Award, an affirmation of UNCLOS’ dispute resolution mechanisms, not only sets reason and right in the South China Sea, but is an inspiration for how matters should be considered – through reason and right – by states facing similarly challenging circumstances.
It authoritatively ruled that the claim of historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ had no basis in law and is without legal effect.
It upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone.
It affirmed that certain actions within the Philippines’ EEZ 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.
These findings are no longer within the reach of denial and rebuttal, and are conclusive as they are indisputable. The Award is final. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it; nay, even erase it from law, history and our collective memories. At the same time, we welcome the support of a growing list of countries for the Award.
The Award benefits the world across the board. We do not see it as directed at any other country, near or far. We see it as it should be seen: as favoring all which are similarly situated by clarifying definitively a legal situation beyond the reach of arms to change. It puts this aspect of international law beyond the limit of prescription.
And so we say once again: the present that we need and the future that we want is a peaceful South China Sea. The Philippines is committed to this for as long as it exists. END