By Roy Mabasa
President Duterte’s decision to set aside the Arbitral Tribunal ruling that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea has led to the healthy environment of dialogue, cooperation, and development in the region.
The Department of Foreign Affairs issued this statement a year after the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea Arbitration case it initiated against China.
According to the DFA, although the Duterte administration remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the country’s territorial claims and maritime entitlements, it also believes that the ongoing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea “should further be resolved in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighborly relations.”
“The bold initiatives of the Administration in pursuing an independent foreign policy have become a game changer not only in the geo-political landscape in the region but more importantly in the lives of our people,” the DFA in a statement on the first year anniversary of the Arbitral Tribunal Award.
The South China Sea Arbitration case was initiated by the Philippines during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III against China on January 22, 2013 under Annex VII to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) concerning certain issues in the South China Sea including the legality of China’s “nine-dotted line” claim.
China subsequently declared that it would not participate in the arbitration stipulating instead that bilateral negotiations be used to resolve border disputes.
On July 12, 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines. The tribunal also ruled that China has “no historical rights” based on the “nine-dash line” map.
President Rodrigo Duterte took steps to mend relations with China that grew hostile after the Aquino administration took the South China Sea disputes to international arbitration.
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