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Here's Why The South China Sea Dispute Will Continue To Haunt Philippine-China Relations

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MANILA, Philippines ― A year has passed since the South China Sea arbitration case at The Hague, and many are still wondering whether the Philippines has benefited from the landmark award at all. Despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s best efforts to downplay territorial disputes with China in favor of stronger strategic and economic ties, the South China Sea continues to haunt bilateral relations between the two neighbors.

Beyond Manila’s wildest dreams, the arbitral tribunal, which was constituted under Article 287, Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, ruled heavily against China. It nullified China’s doctrine of ”historic rights,” which has served as the foundation of Beijing’s expansive nine-dash line claims across much of the South China Sea basin.

According to the tribunal, China’s claims, based on pre-modern maps and historical events, are “incompatible” with prevailing international law, especially since “there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources” in the South China Sea. The decision went a step further, censuring China for “violat[ing] the Philippines’ sovereign rights,” specifically by coercively preventing the Southeast Asian country from exploiting hydrocarbon deposits and fisheries stock within its own exclusive economic zone, or EEZ.

Contrary to China’s claims, the tribunal also ruled that there were no naturally formed “islands” in the Spratly chain, thus none of the contested land features can generate their own EEZs. The tribunal also ruled against China’s massive reclamation activities in the area, describing them as “incompatible with the obligations” of member states, especially because they “inflicted irreparable harm to the maritime environment” as well as “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features” in the area.

In legal terms, the verdict is final and binding, per Article 296 as well as........

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