Nations continue to press China on PH arbitral win

by Jul 12, 2023Featured Article, News

MANILA, Philippines — India added its voice to the chorus of nations calling on China to respect the 2016 arbitral ruling that voided Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea, as they joined the Philippines in marking the seventh anniversary of Manila’s legal victory on Wednesday.

Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran reiterated New Delhi’s new position urging Beijing to adhere to the ruling, after staying neutral over the past seven years.

“All countries have an obligation to respect international law, but perhaps bigger countries have a larger obligation to respect international law,” Kumaran said during an event in Makati City organized by the think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

Besides India, which revised its neutral position in June, ambassadors from other countries that have long supported the 2016 award—United States, Australia, Japan, the European Union, France, the United Kingdom—took part in the event to show support for the ruling.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said Washington was doing its share “to protect this critical maritime area,” through the promotion of respect for international law and rules-based order, maritime capacity building programs, and freedom of navigation operations and routine presence operations.

Critical to the region

“When we look at Southeast Asia, from geography to demographics to the economy, we see that what happens in the Philippines is critical to what happens in the Indo-Pacific and the world. These include challenges to the rules-based international order via provocations in the South China Sea,” she said.

Also on Wednesday, the US Department of State urged Beijing to “comport its maritime claims with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.”

It also urged China to “stop its harassment of claimant state vessels lawfully operating in their exclusive zones; halt its disruption of states’ sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve and manage natural resources; and end its interference with the freedoms of navigation and overflight of states lawfully operating in the region.”

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, issued a unanimous decision that voided China’s broad claims in the South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

China has consistently refused to recognize the ruling.

During the Stratbase forum, the diplomats took turns discussing how their countries were supporting the Philippines in the face of China’s aggression in the disputed waters.

‘Walking the talk’

Australian Ambassador HK Yu said it was important to “walk the talk” in supporting the Hague decision.

“It’s not just about saying the arbitral award is important… It’s about actually following through your actions… that’s what we really mean by walking the talk,” she said.

“That is why Australia is investing P3.6 billion in regional maritime programs, of which the Philippines is a significant beneficiary,” she said.