The Philippines Wins Maritime Dispute Case Against China

PH officials and lawyers at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Photo Credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer

On July 12th 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague supported the Philippines’ claim on the disputed waters of the South China Sea, ruling that China’s expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis. According to the tribunal, China has neither territorial sovereignty nor maritime rights in the South China Sea. It concluded that China doesn't have the right to resources within its "nine-dash line," which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan and covers some 90% of the disputed waters.

This could give the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam more leverage in their own maritime disputes with Beijing. The Tribunal further held that China had violated international law by causing “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, endangering Philippine ships and interfering with Philippine fishing and oil exploration.

“It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” said the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, Perfecto Yasay Jr, said the country welcomed the ruling but have also called for “restraint and sobriety.”

The judgment by an international tribunal in The Hague came down overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines and is likely to increase global diplomatic pressure on Beijing to scale back military expansion in the area.