President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday stressed the importance of the Philippines’ historic arbitral victory against China’s sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS), calling it a “win-win solution.”
During the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Duterte said the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) 2016 ruling on the SCS disputes, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), provided a “clear path towards a just, fair, and win-win solution for all.”
“The award must be seen for what it is – a benefit across the board to all who subscribe to the majesty of law,” he said in his keynote speech.
Duterte made the remarks as he emphasized the Philippines’ commitment to keeping the SCS “a sea of peace, security, and prosperity.”
He said no country could undermine the sea ruling that favored the Philippines.
“No amount of willful disregard by any country, however big and powerful, can diminish the arbitral award’s importance,” the President added.
On July 12, 2016, the PCA in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines after it invalidated China’s supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire SCS. China has repeatedly ignored the 2016 PCA ruling.
The Philippines, on the other hand, has sought to resolve the sea disputes through peaceful and diplomatic negotiations, as it intends to keep its mended ties with Beijing.
Duterte, in his latest speech, reiterated his stance to avoid provocative acts that could only trigger hostilities among the sea claimants.
“We must resolve disputes peacefully, as we manifested in the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes,” he said.
Duterte was referring to the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes approved by the UNGA in 1982, which provides for the obligation of all states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.
Apart from the Philippines and China, the other SCS claimants are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Negotiations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China are still underway for the crafting of a final and binding Code of Conduct in the SCS, which aims to promote peace and stability in the highly-contested waters.
Asean and China, nevertheless, remain committed to the full implementation of the non-binding Declaration on the Code (DOC) of Parties in the SCS inked on Nov. 4, 2002.
The DOC aims to exercise self-restraint and promote non-militarization within the SCS.
Earlier this month, the US Coast Guard said China’s new reporting requirements for foreign vessels in the South China Sea could trigger “instability and potential conflict” in the region.
US Coast Guard Admiral Michael McAllister said Beijing’s new regulation requiring foreign vessels to report their innocent passage through the South China Sea seems to run directly counter to established international agreements and norms.
“If our reading is correct, these are very concerning, and that’s because they begin to build foundations for instability and potential conflicts if those are enforced,” McAllister said.
Beijing earlier announced it will require a range of vessels “to report their information” when passing through what China claims as its territorial waters, beginning Sept. 1.
“Vessels from foreign countries, including submersibles, nuclear vessels, entering Chinese territorial sea shall be required to report info such as their name, current position and next port of call to China’s maritime administration starting Sept. 1,” China said.
Beijing’s Maritime Safety Administration has been mandated to deal with any vessel that fails to report as required “according to relevant laws, regulations, rules and provision.”
More than $5 trillion worth of trade passes through the South China Sea.