Aquino on arbitral court ruling: ‘A victory for all’
MANILA–Former President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said that the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the Philippines’ case against China should be viewed as a “victory for all,” and not just for the country.
Aquino was the chief architect of the Philippines’ foreign policy position that led to the petition that sought to clarify the maritime boundaries in the South China Sea, as China’s expansionism reached the country’s exclusive economic zone within the West Philippine Sea.
“At this point, may I suggest that instead of viewing this decision as a victory of one party over another, the best way to look at this judgment is that it is a victory for all. I say this because the clarity rendered now establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity,” Aquino said.
“Let us bear in mind: Where there is conflict over claims and opinions, cooperation cannot exist. Now that the rules are even clearer, we can all move forward as a global community. Without doubt, this long-running dispute is now closer to having a permanent solution,” he said.
Filipinos celebrated the landmark ruling almost the moment that they downloaded it from the PCA website on Tuesday afternoon, showing their euphoria on social media, while some personalities issued statements or press conferences.
Aquino took his time in issuing his own reaction.
With his lean staff at his home on Times Street in Quezon City, Aquino read line by line the 11-page press release and summary issued by the PCA. The 499-page ruling was also printed out for him.
Aquino and his team double checked facts and details and went through at most three drafts before finalizing his statement.
The result was a carefully crafted three-page, nine-paragraph statement that reflected magnanimity and statesmanship.
“I am, of course, quite elated particularly since all the points we had raised were affirmed. We want to thank the Permanent Court of Arbitration for their fair judgment, and we would also like to extend our gratitude for the clarity with which they presented their ruling,” Aquino said.
The former President said “international law has been made clearer with this monumental decision.”
“This of course deals with the Philippines and China, clarifying each state’s rights and obligations; but as our lead counsel said, it also has very strong implications as far as other coastal states are concerned, with regard to UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas),” he added.
He said the “decision to pursue arbitration was not an easy one to make.”
“Going into arbitration was called a game-changer. We foresaw and experienced the pressures in taking this route; yet until the end, we stood our ground,” Aquino said.
Aquino reminded his countrymen that “the disputes in the Sea Known by Many Names have gone on for decades—from our perspective, stretching as far back as the 1970s.”
“These conflicts have come about, primarily because of the differing opinions on each country’s rights and obligations,” he said, adding:
“To this end, I would ask our countrymen and all people of goodwill to read the Press Release and Summary issued by the Tribunal, to gain a full understanding of the issues involved.”
Aquino stressed that in pursuing the petition, his administration included all branches of government.
He said consultations were done with the Senate as represented by then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and later on by Senator Franklin Drilon, as well as the House under the leadership of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
“Former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada were unequivocal in their support. We also invited the Judiciary, which at that time, due to prudence on handling cases related to the matter, had to decline,” Aquino said.
He also expressed his gratitude “to all our countrymen and partners who have worked hard to defend our shared cause.”
Aquino specifically mentioned the following: then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, former Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, former Solicitors-General Francis Jardeleza and Florin Hilbay, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and now Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, Sandiganbayan Justice Sarah Fernandez, former Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista and Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, former Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr., and former Undersecretary Abigail Valte.
“We also thank the lawyers and experts who assisted our team, as led by Paul Reichler of the Washington-based law firm Foley Hoag,” Aquino said. CDG