Our historic win over China on the disputed West Philippine Sea should be credited to the “heroic efforts” of former President Benigno Aquino III and other Filipino government officials responsible for winning the arbitration case against China.
This was the content of the statement Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel made on July 22, 2016. In fact, he filed a Senate resolution to this effect.
Pimentel recognized that without “the vision, foresight, diligence, and courage” of the former president the land mark win over China through the international arbitration tribunal would not be possible.
He added that it was Aquino who actually decided to file the case. Pimentel, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies, got elected as the next Senate president on July 25, filed Senate Resolution No. 16.
Other political figures cited in the resolution are Supreme Court Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Francis Jardeleza, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay. They were recognized for their “major role” in said historic triumph.
“It is just fitting and right that the Philippine Senate should recognize the heroic efforts made by those involved in achieving the historic legal victory over areas in the West Philippine Sea,” Pimentel said in the statement.
The newly elected Senate president also noted how this favorable ruling will benefit the Filipinos, especially the fishermen and the next generations of Filipinos.
Pimentel also cited the root of the maritime dispute that prompted the Philippines to bring China to court – Chinese authorities stopping Filipino fishermen from fishing in Scarborough Shoal.
“It also deprived the Philippines of almost 80 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending into that area which serves as a major international trading route and believed to contain rich deposits of oil and natural gas,” he said.
However, observers noted how Pimentel’s resolution left out former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as well as Philippine Consul General Henry Bensurto, Jr. They were also involved in the country’s legal fight for the exclusive economic zones or EEZs in the West Philippine Sea, according to government insiders.
But Hilbay and Jardeleza are said to have questionable roles on the matter due to their refusal to include the Itu Aba issue to the Philippine claim.
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration or PCA announced that an arbitral tribunal has finally decided in favor of the Philippines over its historic case against China regarding some areas in the West Philippine Sea.
The PCA revealed that the tribunal “concluded that, as between the Philippines and China, there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘9-dash line.'”
The tribunal, for its part, maintained that “all of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands (including, for example, Itu Aba, Thitu, West York Island, Spratly Island, North-East Cay, South-West Cay) are legally ‘rocks’ that do not generate an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.”