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‘Best legal minds’ give talks on West Phl Sea win

Stephanie Ria Colinco

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“It is a no brainer that the claim of China has no basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

This was the statement of Assoc. Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza during the General Integrative Lectures entitled “How the Sea Was Won: The West Philippine Sea Arbitration” on Sept. 2 at the Luce Auditorium.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, agent to the litigation, and Jardeleza, head of the Philippine legal team for the West Philippine Sea arbitration at the Hague, spoke during the event.

Hilbay and Jardeleza are the “best legal minds” and were instrumental in the decisive victory of the country according to Atty. Myles Bejar, university General Counsel.

According to Jardeleza, China’s nine-dash line, which is based on their historic rights, is not honored by the UNCLOS or the so-called “Constitution of the Seas.”

Jardeleza explained that starting in 1995, China took possession of the reef and “the [Philippines] has been engaging in a dialogue with China ever since.”

“The first time I went to Washington DC, I brought with me two big maletas. ‘Yung laman nun parang balikbayan box, containing proof of our 17 years of exchange with China,” Jardeleza said.

The 17 years of failed exchange of views with China was one of the triggers for the Philippines to take action. Jardeleza also presented China’s violations which were traditional fishing in Scarborough Shoal and land reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Jardeleza explained that former President Benigno Aquino III initiated the arbitration, but was earlier “faced with the difficult duty to decide whether to file or not to file” considering several factors such as China’s opt-out.

“Our consultant from Yale told us that the possibility of the case being thrown out is more than 50 per cent…we were going up against China…’bakit naman papansinin ang Pilipinas, kaliit-liit niyo,’” Jardeleza said.

Nevertheless, the Philippines has now a claim to 50 features in the West Philippine Sea, one of the many awards given by the tribunal.

“Imagine how we have to go around the country telling everyone why we lost…buti na lang nanalo tayo,” Hilbay said.

During the lecture, Hilbay talked about the process of how they “handled this particular arbitration” and gave “an attempt to try to put a face to the case.”

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