Starting from a case filed on January 22, 2013, until its final jurisdiction through the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) last July 12, 2016, the whole world sat on the edge of their seats witnessing the changing legal and geographical landscape of the South China Sea. These few years were intense. Supports were given by states and by people, so were claims. Tensions both subtle and obvious rose between countries all around the world. Finally, the PCA ruled that the Philippines could keep what it claims, but what does it mean?
This ruling could mean unrestricted and unthreatened fishing for Filipinos as well as unthreatened exploration for resources. However, according to National Geographic, much of the reefs have been severely damaged and are considered “dead.” This was through the excessive giant clam poaching and island building done for the past years. Just last December, a BBC crew caught such action on film, and many reports including those of John McManus, a marine biologist at the University of Miami, reveal that this has caused much damage to the resources and ecosystems found in the area.
The ruling could also mean increased tensions between the countries and their allies claiming territory within the area. Not only is the zone of the South China Sea possibly rich in many resources, but according to CNN, it also sees about $5 trillion worth in sea trade pass through it each year. The conflict does not only mean the Philippines against China, though, as there are many claimants to certain parts of the area, including Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Countries like Japan and USA have voiced their support for the Philippines, and have put pressure in implementing the rulings of the PCA. Though this could be potentially good, some consider it as part of a greater conspiracy.
Although considered to be more negative than positive, there is no real option for many countries to declare armed conflict on this situation. Our own incumbent president is against it and is very much open to talks, according to CNN Philippines. Senator Ping Lacson proposed, in a public interview, that we could opt for the help of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces so as not to escalate the friction between many countries. We cannot predict as to where this affair will conclude, or how. Only time will tell.