PH reaffirms 2016 Arbitral Award in int’l tribunal hearing on marine protection, preservation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — The Philippines highlighted the significance of the 2016 Arbitral Award in the South China Sea in a public hearing before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany.

The tribunal invited 35 member states of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including the Philippines and China, to participate in the hearing following the request of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) for an advice on how to hold big polluting countries accountable.

COSIS is composed of Pacific island nations such as Palau, The Bahamas, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Antigua and Barbud.

The Philippines delivered its oral statement on Tuesday through Philippine Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Carlos Sorreta, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce, and Assistant Solicitor General Gilbert Medrano.

Ponce cited that the South China Sea arbitration “provide the most authoritative determination on the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment”.

“It [South China Sea Arbitration] pronounced legal doctrines that could help determine the outcome of these proceedings," Ponce said. "It is a legally binding international law. Its validity cannot be assailed."

Ponce added: “From the South China Sea arbitration, we can deduce that the obligation of due diligence is two-fold. First is adopting appropriate rules to prohibit a harmful practice. Second, is ensuring enforcement and compliant with said rules."

Sorreta, on the other hand, said that UNCLOS member-states have a general obligation to take active measures to protect and preserve the marine environment.

“The South China Sea arbitration, it is the obligation of states to adopt appropriate rules and measures to preserve and protect the marine environment and to ensure compliance by entities under its control and jurisdiction,” he said.

The Philippines also reiterated its willingness to cooperate with regional countries.

“Following the arbitral ruling, the Philippines emphasizes the duty under 197 cooperate on a global or regional basis, directly or through competent international organizations for the protection and the preservation of the marine environment in relation to climate change impacts,” Sorreta said.

The Philippines’ statement on marine preservation and protection coincides with the recent reports of massive coral destruction in some parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In a separate statement, the DFA expressed serious concerns over the harmful activities in the West Philippine Sea committed by foreign vessels.

“We, therefore, call on everyone concerned to act responsibly and cease all activities that can damage our precious marine environment," the DFA said.

"The well-being of millions of people who depend on the South China Sea for their livelihood is at stake,” it also said.

China rejects use of Arbitral Ruling in int'l tribunal

In the same tribunal hearing, China reiterated its position that it is not recognizing the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea as it delivered its oral statement in ITLOS.

“China notices that some States mentioned the so-called South China Sea arbitration awards in their written and oral statements," said Ma Xinmin, director-general, Department of Treaty and Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.

"The position of China on this issue is clear and consistent," he stressed. "The arbitral tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration acted ultra vires, erred in fact-finding, misinterpreted and perverted the law in adjudication.”

“The so-called 'awards' are null and void and should not be 45 invoked as a legal basis,” the official added.

Beijing also said that ITLOS does not have the advisory competence to grant the request of small island nations.