'Ball is in PH court': Gov't urged to raise arbitral win again after China's rejection

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2019 02:40 PM | Updated as of Sep 01 2019 03:10 PM

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MANILA -- The Philippine government must raise its arbitral win against China if it plans to keep its word to protect the country's maritime rights in the disputed South China Sea, a maritime law expert said Sunday.

Jay Batongbacal, director of University of the Philippines' Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, made the remark after China refused to recognize the ruling when President Rodrigo Duterte raised it during his recently-concluded visit.

"We have to be careful that the Philippines should not, in any way, acknowledge that China does have any rights to the West Philippine Sea because the arbitral ruling clearly declared that they do not," Batongbacal told ANC's Dateline Philippines.

"So that's why it's not correct for the Palace to say that it's closing the door on raising it again. It will have to be raised if they're going to be true to their word that they will protect Philippine rights and entitlement in the West Philippine Sea."

Earlier reports said Chinese officials asked their Philippine counterparts not to mention the arbitral victory again, which Batongbacal rejected.

"The ball is in the Philippine government's court again to keep on raising the arbitration at every opportunity possible because that's the only way they can use it as a leverage for any other concession," he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, said he wants a binding South China Sea code crafted before Duterte steps down, according to Malacañang.

The code of conduct for the disputed sea, however, will not solve all maritime issues, Batongbacal said.

"I think we also have to remember that the South China Sea disputes are multi-faceted so there are legal issues, and then there are practical or pragmatic issues, issues on the ground, incidents that will continue to take place," he said.

"The code of conduct will only help to manage these issues as they arise and perhaps prevent them from escalating into conflict but that still does not, in any way, resolve the problems, the disputes between the two states."

In 2017, China and Southeast Asian countries with conflicting maritime claims agreed to start talks on a sea code, seen to replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.