Banking on World Heritage

India backs the 2016 ruling favouring the Philippines in the South China Sea


India demanded adherence to the 2016 arbitration ruling in favour of the Philippines, which China has rejected, as talks between China and the ASEAN bloc for a code of conduct in the South China Sea continued. Diplomatic sources described these talks as a “complex exercise” involving 11 nations.

What is the Exclusive economic zone of the Philippines?

  • Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): The EEZ of the Philippines extends across a significant portion of the ocean, or around 2,263,816 square kilometres (874,064 square miles). It extends 370 kilometres (200 nautical miles) offshore of the nation.
  • Composition: The Philippines’ 7,641 islands make up the archipelago, which contributes to the considerable size of its EEZ. The nation has a sizable maritime domain due to the presence of several islands.
  • Land Area: The Philippines have a total land area of about 300,000 square kilometres (120,000 square miles), including inland waterways. This includes all inland waterways, including lakes, rivers, and the landmass of the islands.
  • Coastline length: The Philippines’ coastline, which is about 36,289 kilometres (22,549 miles) long, is the fifth-longest in the world. Due to the islands’ complex structure and configuration, they have a long shoreline.
  • Geographical Location: The Philippines’ coordinates are between 4° 40′ and 21° 10′ N latitude and 116° 40′ and 126° 34′ E longitude. The geographical limits of the nation are indicated by these coordinates.
  • Water Borders: The Philippines is surrounded by several waterways. While the South China Sea is to the west, the Philippine Sea is to the east and north. The Celebes Sea forms the southern border of the nation.

What are the problems between China and the Philippines?

  • Territorial Disputes: In the South China Sea, there are territorial disputes between the Philippines and China as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Islands, reefs, and other marine features are the subject of these claims, as are the rights to the waters and resources located within each party’s exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
  • China’s Nine-Dash Line: Through the nine-dash line, a demarcation line that covers a significant chunk of the region, China maintains its territorial claim to the majority of the South China Sea. The Philippines’ EEZ is severely impacted by the nine-dash line, which also violates its marine rights. International rules, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), are broken by China’s Nine Dash Line. 
  • Building Artificial Islands in China: In the Spratly Islands, China started building artificial islands on reefs in 2013. Land reclamation and the construction of infrastructure, such as airports and military facilities, were involved in these efforts. This caused neighbouring nations, particularly the Philippines, to express alarm over China’s ambitions and potential effects on regional stability.
  • Seizure of Scarborough: Scarborough Shoal was taken over by China in 2012; it is a contentious feature that is within the Philippine EEZ. The incident heightened tensions between the two nations and prompted the Philippines to assert its sovereignty through more diplomatic and legal means.
  • Legal Challenge at the Permanent Court of Arbitration: In 2013, the Philippines lodged a case against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in response to its forceful tactics. On the legality of China’s claims and its actions in the South China Sea, the Philippines requested a judgement. China abstained from the hearings, claiming that the PCA lacked authority in the situation.

What Is the outcome of the legal case?

  • Background of the case: 

             A)The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines are the parties to the arbitration.

             B)The action was brought under UNCLOS Annex VII, which both China (1996) and the Philippines (1984) had ratified.

  • Legal Dispute: 

            A)On February 19, 2013, China said that it would not take part in the arbitration.

            B)In a white paper published in December 2014, China contended that the arbitral panel lacked jurisdiction.

            C)China did not appoint any arbitrators, although the Philippines did, as permitted by UNCLOS.

  • Tribunal’s Jurisdiction Decision: 

            A)On October 29, 2015, the tribunal determined that subject to a few restrictions, it had jurisdiction to consider seven of the Philippines’ submissions.

           B)The panel decided to wait until the merits phase before considering its jurisdiction over the remaining eight submissions.

  • Determining the merits:

           A)The arbitral panel ruled in favour of the Philippines on the majority of its arguments on July 12, 2016.

          B)The tribunal made it clear that it would not pass judgement on issues of maritime boundary delineation or sovereignty.

         C)It was decided that, unless they are legitimate under UNCLOS, China’s historical rights claims over marine territories inside the nine-dash line have no legal significance.

  • Responses to the Decision: 

            A)China and Taiwan disagreed with the arbitral tribunal’s decision.

            B)While some governments issued generic statements endorsing the judgement without making an explicit request for compliance, other governments demanded that the ruling be heeded.

           C)Some governments vehemently disagreed with the decision.

What is India’s Stand on this issue?

  • India has demanded that the 2016 arbitration ruling in favour of the Philippines be upheld.
  •  In particular, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, India emphasises the need for peaceful dispute resolution and adherence to international law.