By: Elena Grace Flores
Now that it has been decided that the West Philippines Sea in the the disputed South China Sea rightfully belongs to the Philippines and Filipinos have sovereignty over it and not the Chinese, we have something to be thankful to the previous President Benigno Simeon Aquino III who organized the power team and the delegates themselves. The United Nations Arbitral Tribunal finally concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ as argued previously by the delegation.
Aside from then Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, then Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, ex-Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima, ex-Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, ex-Undersecretary Abigail Valte and ex-Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista composed the Philippine team at the Hague during the arguments together with members of the delegation ex-Supreme Court Justices Antonio Carpio and Francis Jardeleza and ex-Sandiganbayan Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez.
Senator Franklin Drilon and outgoing House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also joined the delegation. Solicitor General Florin Hilbay who was assisted by an American lawyer retained by the government, Paul Reichler of Foley and Hoag LLP, did the actual arguments last July 7 to 11, 2015.
The Philippine delegation argued its case against China’s “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea before the International tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).“Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.