The Philippines will assert its territorial rights over the Spratly Islands which China claims to be part of its territory according to what it calls a “nine-dash line.”
Speaking with representatives of the local Philippine media, President-elect Ferdinand Bongbong Romualdez Marcos Jr. said, ““We have a very important ruling in our favor and we will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It is not a claim. It is already our territorial right.”
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, in the Netherlands, ruled that China’s nine-dash line claim to the islands is not valid under international law. China’s historic rights claim were found to be incompatible with the exclusive economic zones under the United Nations Law of the Sea.
The tribunal of five judges also ruled against China’s reclamation efforts in the area citing them to be illegal under UNCLOS. Not only were these activities illegal, the tribunal found that the large-scale reclamation activities had severely harmed the coral reefs in the area.
Following the international court ruling in July 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte opted to set it aside over China’s promises of trade and investment as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
President Marcos said they would not let a single millimeter of their maritime rights be trampled upon.
Asked for China’s reaction to Marcos’ statement, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China’s position on the South China Sea arbitration case is consistent, clear and unchanged.
He said China and the Philippines are friendly close neighbors. “We have established a bilateral consultation mechanism on issues relating to the South China Sea and maintain communication and dialogue on maritime issues. China stands ready to continue working with the Philippines through dialogue and consultation to properly handle differences and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
Moreover, President Xi Jinping, in his congratulatory message to Marcos, highlighted the Sino-Philippine relations have been enhanced, mutually benefitting their people and contributing to regional peace and stability. Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, echoing President Xi’s statement, said China attaches great importance to China-Philippines relations and stands ready to work together with the Philippines to adhere to good-neighborly friendship and common development, and push forward our comprehensive strategic cooperative relationship for the benefit of both countries and peoples.