Interview: The South China Sea Ruling


International law expert Roncevert Ganan Almond on the recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

What do you think about this ruling? Does it follow your predictions?

The unanimous ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (the “PCA” or “Tribunal”) in the dispute between the Philippines and China is a landmark decision under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) and represents a strong rebuke of China’s expansive claims to maritime territory in the South China Sea. The PCA’s ruling serves not only as a technical legal decision, binding on the parties – China and the Philippines, but also as a broader message concerning the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea pursuant to a rules-based international order.

From a legal perspective, the Philippines won a decisive victory on almost all counts, which is not necessarily surprising, especially given the weakness of China’s maritime claims under international law. The nearly 500-page decision carefully documents Beijing’s violations of UNCLOS and highlights broader policy implications underlying its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. One example is the PCA’s close examination of the status of maritime features within the South China Sea against the backdrop of UNCLOS’ role in protecting the “common heritage of mankind” and preserving the international community’s interests in preserving high seas freedoms in the region. Hugo Grotius would be smiling.