Philippines v. China the South China Sea arbitral award: implications for policy and practice
On July 12, 2016, an arbitration Tribunal registered under the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague handed down its unanimous award in the case filed by the Philippines against China concerning the dispute between the two countries over territory and maritime jurisdictions in the South China Sea (SCS). Though the Tribunal's decision did not include aspects related to sovereignty and boundary delimitation between the parties, it rendered final and binding judgments in favor of the Philippines on a host of critical issues as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to the press statement it issued, there is "no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line.'" Second, it also ruled that certain sea areas in the SCS fall within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines and none of the features in the Spratly Islands could generate its own EEZ. Third, it observed that China has caused serious damage to the marine environment and "violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species." Finally, the Tribunal found that China engaged in actions that aggravated the dispute, including "large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands."