Two senators hailed yesterday the decision of the Philippine Court of Arbitration at the Hague that it has jurisdiction to hear Philippine territorial claims over the West Philippine Sea but see a long hard road ahead.
Sen. Francis “Chiz’’ Escudero said the Philippines must prepare for a long, exhausting arbitration process and that it “is just the first step.’’
“We have not really won anything yet. What this means simply is that the judges have decided that there will be a fight to begin with, and the next step now is for the parties to battle on the merits,’’ Escudero, a former law professor, said.
In its decision, the Tribunal ruled that both the Philippines and China are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and therefore bound by its provisions on the settlement of disputes.
Sen. Antonio “Sonny’’ F. Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, on the other hand, said the Tribunal’s decision “validates our complaint and, therefore, strengthens our call for global intervention.’’
“However, China, for fear of losing face, would likely continue with their activities and insist on their claims even if it loses the case,’’ he pointed out.
Escudero said “this is a victory for all Filipinos.’’
“Sa ganitong pagkakataon, pwede at dapat isantabi ang pulitika dahil tagumpay ito ng buong bayan. Walang pula, asul, dilaw, o puti,” Escudero said.
Both Escudero and Trillanes are seeking the vice presidency as independents.
Escudero is who is running alongside with Sen. Grace Poe who is running independently for president. Trillanes supports Poe’s presidential bid.
He said the Philippines’ legal team will need all the help it can get from all sides of the government to defend the Philippines’ claim over the West Philippine Sea, which China calls South China Sea.
He expressed hope that the international court would ultimately rule in the Philippines’ favor but he also warned that the international proceedings would take a lot of time and resources on the part of the Philippines.
“We have to be prepared for this. There is hard work to be done; we must be aware that we may face hurdles along the way. Let’s continue to pray for the country’s legal team,” Escudero explained.
In a press statement, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said the decision was “unanimous and concerns only whether the Tribunal has jurisdiction to consider the Philippines’ claims and whether such claims are admissible.”
(MARIO B. CASAYURAN)