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PBBM leveraging on 2016 arbitral ruling favors PH on WPS issue, says expert

West Philippine Sea

A Manila-based academic and columnist welcomed President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s move to use the 2016 arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines as a leverage to advance the country’s interest with regard to the West Philippine Sea issue.

Speaking Saturday during a news forum in Quezon City, Prof. Richard Heydarian debunked claims that the 2016 arbitration award is just a piece of paper and no value.

Heydarian described it as the biggest lie, saying that since the release of the arbitration award, China has not used its nine-dash line. And although it made another argument, it was not well received by experts.

“So actually it worked in a sense that China is not using nine-dash line,” Heydarian said. “So, hindi po totoo na hindi gumana iyong arbitration award – it gave us a leverage. Ang totoo naman is hindi natin na-maximize itong leverage na iyan and for me, in fairness naman kay President Marcos, I think he recently mentioned that we are talking to… potentially do what Indonesia and Vietnam (are) doing which is you know maritime border delimitation based on prevailing international law.”

“Finally we’re seeing under the current administration some efforts to leverage what was not leveraged for whatever reason that we have right now and sana naman itong isyu ng West Philippine Sea huwag nating gawing partisan issue.”

Heydarian said Filipinos must “have unity with purpose” and also have oneness in terms of appreciating the validity of the arbitral ruling based on the prevailing international law or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

He added that even Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia have been invoking the 2016 arbitration award directly or indirectly with regard to threats posed by China and also in defending their claims “because they see the value of what we did.”

Also, the irony is that even countries that had not ratified UNCLOS are the most compliant compared to the countries that adopted it.

Another benefit of the award is that it provided legal basis for other non-claimant countries such as the United States to be more confident in conducting freedom of navigation operations, the academic said.

“At iyong ibang bansa – India, Japan, Europe even though hindi nila sinasabi na freedom of navigation operations kahit hindi sila pumapasok sa loob ng 12 nautical miles sa mga Chinese fake islands they’re still moving in the area to show na hindi lang Amerika ang hindi natutuwa, hindi lang tayo,” Heydarian added.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague adjudicating the Philippines’ case against China in the South China Sea ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines.

It determined that major elements of China’s claim—including its nine-dash line, recent land reclamation activities, and other activities in Philippine waters — has no legal basis. | PND

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