MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Tuesday the Duterte administration is right not to take the 2016 landmark arbitral ruling on the South China Sea before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) because it is already part of the international law and doing so would only risk turning Manila’s loss of possession into Chinese right.
But while already a part of international law, Locsin said the document “for now” cannot be used for the purpose of retaking possession of what China took from the Philippines, apparently referring to the Scarborough Shoal, “because we let it.”
“(President Rodrigo R. Duterte) is right not to take it to the UN where China has the votes, as the proud authors of the Arbitral Award keep insisting for purposes of the coming election campaign because they will be in the news. The UNGA (General Assembly) will just turn our loss of possession into Chinese right,” he said over Twitter.
Locsin said the award in itself is already “brilliant for its abstraction” after ruling that none of the features in the Spratlys generates maritime rights.
“The Arbitral Award was brilliant for its abstraction: merely defining what the maritime features – e.g. half the time submerged reefs – at issue generate in terms of maritime rights: ZERO. See the brilliance,” he said.
“The Arbitral Tribunal trashed historic claim as a basis of right because history yields to law. Therefore, if China held on to and got more, the reefs would be within Philippine territory under UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).”
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration concluded that all high-tide features in the Spratly Islands, even the largest island Itu Aba, are “rocks” that do not generate an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) nor a continental shelf.
It highlighted that China has no possible entitlement to an EEZ overlapping that of the Philippines in the Spratlys.
In a special meeting with Duterte on Monday, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile agreed that there is no need to bring the award before the UN since the decision was already based on the UNCLOS. (PNA)