One year ago, on July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) announced that the South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal had issued a unanimous award in favour of the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS) conflict.
The legally binding award has demolished China’s expansive historical claims in the SCS and pointed out that Beijing had no entitlement to an exclusive zone within 200 miles of the Spratly Islands. It is a landmark judgment that upholds a rule-based international maritime order enshrined in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The arbitration concerned the role of historic rights and the source of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, the status of certain maritime features and the maritime entitlements they are capable of generating, and the lawfulness of certain actions by China that were alleged by the Philippines to violate the Convention.
The basis for this arbitration is the UNCLOS of which both the Philippines and China are parties. The Convention was adopted as a “constitution for the oceans,” in order to “settle all issues relating to the Law of the Sea”.