The Philippines has expressed its gratitude to the United States for being its “most vocal partner” in reaffirming and asserting the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s massive claims over the South China Sea and upholding the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a speech during a working lunch hosted by US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington DC on May 13, thanked the US government for sharing the same view on the issue in the South China Sea.
Locsin made the statement even as he reaffirmed Manila’s position in upholding the arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines in 2016.
“The US is our most vocal partner in reaffirming the 2016 Arbitral Award and upholding a rules-based international order. We deeply appreciate that,” Locsin said.
He also welcomed the call of the US Senate for a common ASEAN approach to reaffirm the Award.
“Thank you, America,” he added.
According to Locsin, the Philippines being an archipelagic state, “puts primacy on maritime freedom and security, first and foremost in its exclusive waters; be they territorial, EEZed (exclusive economic zone) or continental shelf.”
“What is ours is ours. It can be taken from us by stealth or force; yet that would not diminish a whit of our sovereign ownership. What is stolen cannot be lost by prescription, we insist. Brute facts do not ripen into law,” Locsin said.
Locsin emphasized that the benefit of the arbitral award is not exclusive to the Philippines.
“The Award provides legal clarity to all and is available to other countries with the same problematic maritime features as ours. It benefits the world across the board,” he said.
Locsin also said the Philippine government did not actively seek recognition from the international community so as not to undermine victory.
“That would have undermined the totality of our victory by diluting its binding legal force with the seeming need for international acclamation and support. The victory is pure law,” he added.
He reiterated anew that with regard to the EEZ, the Philippine government holds fast to the Arbitral Award that it fought for and won by itself.
An EEZ, as prescribed by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from the coast of the state in question.
He cited Ukraine which never lost its sovereignty over areas occupied by the Russian aggressor.
He went on to say that the benefit of the Arbitral Award is, however, not exclusive to the Philippines.
He also thanked US President Joseph Biden Jr. for his congratulatory call to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Both, he said, agreed to continue working “on sustaining our special relations in mutual defense.”
Biden hosted the summit on May 12-13 that was attended 10 Asean leaders from the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Held for the first time, the US-Asean summit discussions focused on strengthening ties between the US and Asean, the digital economy, sustainability, clean energy transition, economic cooperation, health care, and supply chain resilience, among others.