China on PH’s 2016 arbitral win: ‘Illegal, null, and void’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 13) — Five years since the Philippines’ victory in The Hague, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday maintained its stand on the arbitration award, saying the ruling is illegal and nothing but waste paper.

“The award of the arbitration is illegal, null and void. It is nothing more than a piece of waste paper,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a briefing.

He also said the “arbitration violated the principle of state consent and the arbitral tribunal exercised its jurisdiction ultra vires [invalid] and rendered an award in disregard of law.”

“The arbitration has major fallacies in fact-finding and application of law and violates UNCLOS and international law,” the spokesman added.

In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against the East Asian superpower. The five-member arbitral tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claims over virtually the entire South China Sea and recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

READ: Remembering the 2016 Hague ruling: What has happened since then?

China continuously disregards the ruling and Chinese vessels can be seen regularly in the disputed waters despite a number of diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines.

Back in May, President Rodrigo Duterte similarly described the country’s arbitral victory as a piece of paper that he can throw away in a trash bin, noting that the ruling has led to nothing. Moreover, he described calls for him to continue the fight in the United Nations as "a waste of time and at the same time disrupting the good relations of China and the Philippines."

In a statement, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “the United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea,” noting that any armed attack on Philippine forces, vessels, or aircraft in the West Philippine Sea would invoke the mutual defense commitments of the U.S. and the Philippines under the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

He also called on Beijing to “abide by its obligations under international law, cease its provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small.”

In another statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the award is a milestone as it affirms Manila’s claim over the disputed waters and that it is “final and executory.”

He also urged all parties involved to heed the call for a rules-based international order and refrain from doing acts that may worsen the situation.

“Consistent with Philippine national policy, we shall continue to seek all avenues to achieve a peaceful and friendly management of all standing maritime disputes,” Lorenzana said.