PH asserts 2016 arbitral ruling in Asean maritime forum

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

November 19, 2021, 7:22 am

MANILA – The Philippine government asserted anew the 2016 arbitral award in the South China Sea during a maritime meet among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.

The 11th Asean Maritime Forum was held virtually last November 16, coincidentally on the day when three Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels blocked and fired a water cannon on two Philippine boats while en route to resupply Filipino troops at the Ayungin Shoal.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu said Manila upholds the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the legal framework under which all ocean activities are regulated.

“The Philippines follows a rules-based approach in the South China Sea, including assertion of the 2016 Arbitration Award on the South China Sea, which is now part of international law,” he said.

“As our President highlighted at the recent 24th Asean-China Summit, the 2016 Arbitral Award singles out no one and in fact justly favors and benefits the community of law-abiding nations by providing clarity to all, which is beyond compromise,” he added.

He expressed the Philippines’ commitment to achieving the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is in accordance with international law, particularly the UNCLOS.

READ: PH outraged after Chinese vessels blocked PH supply boats

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on November 18 made a tacit confirmation that the CCG prevented the Filipino boats from entering the area, saying the vessels trespassed "into waters near Ren'ai Jiao (Ayungin Shoal) of China's Nansha Qundao (Spratlys)".

Zhao said the two nations are "in communication" on the subject hours after the Philippine government publicly condemned the incident.

The Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal, where a Filipino garrison is stationed on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, is about 105 nautical miles off Palawan.

The feature is also part of the Kalayaan Island Group, commonly known as the Spratlys.

Professor Rüdiger Wolfrum, a distinguished jurist and former president of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), said: "it is clear that the Philippines has the right to an EEZ (exclusive economic zone) according to the UNCLOS" when it comes to features in the Spratlys that are 200 nautical miles from its baseline.

"It has also been made clear in the award that low tide elevations within the EEZ of any given state come under the jurisdiction of the coastal state concerned and nobody can establish artificial islands or installation or whatsoever on low tide elevation within the EEZ of given coastal state in the South China Sea area," he told reporters in a presser on Thursday.

"This is just an interpretation of the UNCLOS, which is beyond doubt," he added.

Based on the 2016 arbitration award, Ayungin Shoal forms part of the Philippines' EEZ and continental shelf, "and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China." (PNA) // asean logo