Hague ruling to benefit Philippines, other nations over time — US naval law expert

A host of legal experts have viewed the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s West Philippine Sea ruling as a landmark decision that poses benefits not only for the archipelagic Philippines but also for other states.

A host of legal experts have viewed the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s West Philippine Sea ruling as a landmark decision that poses benefits not only for the archipelagic Philippines but also for other states.

In a lecture organized by the University of Asia and the Pacific School of Law and Governance, Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the US Naval War College Professor James Kraska discussed the main issues invoked in the Philippines’s case against China and the favorable outcomes presented by the ruling. He assessed the matter on the basis of China’s nine-dash line, the geology and elevation of the features included in the contested waters, and the misconduct of the Chinese nation.
 
Delving into these three main points, Kraska described the ruling as an expected facts-based decision. He also noted that the Court’s firm stance despite the involvement of China, a known global power, may have been the real surprise.

The ruling nullified China’s nine-dash lines; identified most of the features as mere rocks or elevations and therefore not entitled to territorial seas; and affirmed violations committed by China in its reclamation and unlawful military and fishing activities. China has naturally aired objections to these.

The resulting delay in negotiations between the Philippines and China translates to an indefinite postponement of the ruling’s enforcement. Still, Kraska believes that the ruling will “gain normative force over time” and that China will eventually comply, even if “it might take decades.”

The Hague ruling solidifies the UNCLOS mandate, which is to provide equal opportunities for development, especially for formerly colonized states. With the Philippines’ recent arbitral success, other nations have been inspired to pursue similar actions. This is seen as a positive development, the ruling as a catalyst for a favorable shift in resolving matters of the same interest.

The Philippines elevated its long-standing territorial tiff with China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013, after a series of failed attempts at negotiations. The filing of the case against the economic superpower was triggered by the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012, where Chinese surveillance ships stopped the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese vessels found poaching at the area.

China’s aggressive and dangerous naval actions and its failure to protect and preserve marine life are among the key issues raised by the Philippines. Other pertinent points in the petition, to which the Permanent Court ruled in favor of the island-nation, include the invalidity of China’s nine-dash line and the reclaimed islands’ non-entitlement to exclusive economic zones.

The Court issued a preliminary decision on October 29, 2015 asserting that is has jurisdiction to hear the case. It sealed the Philippines’s victory in a 500-page resolution published on July 12, 2016.

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