Launching the very first landmark book on the Philippines’ victory over South China Sea dispute, Marites Dañguilan Vitug emphasized the “inter-generational struggle” Philippines continues to face two years after the country’s legal success against China.
“Making the tribunal work and seeing it become a reality will take way beyond a single president’s term,” she said yesterday at the Media Center, Ateneo de Davao Community Center for First Companions, during the debut of her book entitled “Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won its Maritime Case against China”.
Vitug stressed that Philippine diplomats have been asserting Philippine rights on some parts of the South China Sea “only to be rebuffed by a stock response that China has indisputable sovereignty over this vast area.”
“With this book, I hope more diplomats and experts will use this to trigger conversations how to make use of our legal victory so that we would arrive to a consensus on this issue,” she added.
Last July 2016, the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal issued the 500-page Award to the Philippines, stating that the country has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, invalidating China’s “nine-dash line” claim.
What made the issue more historic is that it was the “first to interpret the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea’s (UNCLOS) definition of rocks, islands and low-tide elevations, first case filed by a South China Sea claimant against China, first time that the Philippines sued a country, and the first case to address the scope and application of UNCLOS’ provision on protection and preservation of the environment.”
“A law professor from the University of Geneva said that July 12, 2016 is a date that will remain etched in the history of international adjudication,” Vitug quoted.
The decision was able to remove doubts on the features in South China Sea and what belongs to the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, and shrink the disputed areas to smaller sizes.
Amidst the ruling, Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s “new policy now is to welcome China as a global economic power.”
“The said policy seems to drown out the gains of July 12, 2016, weakening the Philippines’ position, making the country part of the course approval of China in the ASEAN,” Vitug said.
Because of this, Vitug aims to “present a different narrative on the maritime dispute with China” to hear other sides of the story.
“It’s time we talk and go back to the case of Philippines versus China,” she added, relating to the neglect Filipinos have for the said issue unless it is again disclosed by the media.
In his opening remark, AdDU College of Law Dean Atty. Manual Quibod emphasized on the “need for a renewed effort to inform people of the value of the ruling as the President, himself, “downplayed the ruling.”
“It [enforcement of ruling] will require strategic thinking anchored on a strong sense of justice, equity and sovereign rights,” Vitug stressed, also adding the importance of international pressures on the said issue.
The book launching-forum ended with Vitug entertaining questions and insights from the audience. Afterwards, she also participated in a book signing for her “Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won its Maritime Case against China.”
The said book launch was organized by the Ateneo de Davao University Community Engagement & Advocacy Council, Ateneo de Davao University College of Law, Mindanews, and Konsensya Dabaw.
Initially, the book was already launched in Manila last month and is already on its second printing. Further book launches were already arranged in different areas like Australia to introduce the book to a wider scope.