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5 Things To Know About The South China Sea Arbitration Case

Get to know more about the Philippines' legal fight in the international front
by Andrei Medina | Jul 11, 2016
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Tuesday, July 12, marks the day when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will hand down its historic ruling on the arbitration case pursued by the Philippines against China over disputes involving some parts of the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines, along with Western countries like Britain and the United Kingdom and long-time ally United States are expecting a favorable ruling to end the decades-long international dispute.

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Below are five essential things to know about the case:

1) What is the arbitration case?

The arbitration case is a legal measure formally lodged by the Philippines under the United Nations 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) back in January 2013.

It contains 15 points that reinforce the claims of the Philippine to exploit its Exclusive Economic Zone which it claims China has violated throughout the decades.

2) Why did the Philippines pursue a case?

Although a maritime dispute between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea have existed for decades, things reached its climax during a tense standoff at the Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

The United States mediated between the two, with the Philippines pulling out its naval forces from the area to de-escalate tension while China decided to stay and seized the opportunity to gain control of the shoal.

The Philippines, with its relatively weaker naval force, finally decided that it can only reinforce its claim through legal action and hope for a favorable ruling by an internationally recognized tribunal.


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3) What is China’s reaction to the case?

China has been dissuading the Philippines to pursue the case and instead said that the issue can be resolved through bilateral talks.

With the Philippines still filing a case despite the warnings, China became angered and decided to boycott the whole process. Chinese officials have also stated that they will ignore the ruling the arbitration tribunal will come up with.

4) What will happen if the tribunal rules in favor of the Philippines?

It is yet to be known how China will react if the Philippines wins the case but a favorable ruling will most likely result in the latter trying to impose its sovereignty against the former through diplomatic means.

The Philippines might also attempt to gain control of some of the man-made structures built by China in the West Philippine Sea during the height of the dispute.

But these moves might prove to be a tall order for the Philippines as China’s stubborn stand on ignoring the ruling of the arbitration tribunal speaks volumes on how they will probably treat The Hague’s decision.

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5) What will happen if it rules in favor of China?

At this point, it’s probably safe to say that China will continue to impose its nine-dash line, not only against the Philippines but also against its other Asian neighbors that happen to have maritime disputes with them.

China will also be emboldened to continue its militarization of the West Philippine Sea which might eventually lead to a naval confrontation with the United States in what is seen as a battle of established and rising world powers.


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