The arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claim over the West Philippine Sea can be the new administration’s signal for further asserting its economic sovereignty, research group IBON said. This is also an opportune time for the Philippines to consider cutting or renegotiating unequal arrangements with other countries that put the nation’s control over its resources at stake, said the group.
The United Nation’s backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague announced its unanimous decision on the territorial dispute case between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines filed a complaint at the international tribunal upon China’s laying claim over portions of the sea which fall within Philippine exclusive economic zone, construction of facilities there and allowing Chinese nationals to fish in Philippine fishing zones.
According to the decision, China’s historical claim over the territory by virtue of its 9-dash rule does not stand. The Philippines was also awarded sovereign rights over Panginiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Scarborough) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank off Palawan province. However, the court stated that neither country has the right to stop anyone from fishing at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales since it is a traditional fishing ground for several countries.
IBON said that this favorable ruling is an opportunity for the Philippines to uphold its economic sovereignty not just with China, but other countries including the US. One-sided and unfair trade and investment agreements with other countries have long-impeded the Philippine’s national development and industrialization. These agreements can be reviewed on a case-to-case basis, renegotiated, and even terminated if necessary.
The Duterte administration, through Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, said that it welcomes and respects the ruling, is committed to a peaceful resolution, and is awaiting an interpretation of the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision to be released in five days before it formally comments.
IBON said that though diplomacy and ensuring cooperation among involved parties is important, this should not be at the expense of Philippine sovereignty. The group said that Duterte should consider forging economic policies and trade agreements that will be beneficial and serve the genuine national industrialization of the country.###