Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has hailed the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands to assume jurisdiction over some of the territorial claims filed by the Philippines against China involving the West Philippine Sea.
"We are truly relieved and grateful that the jurisdiction issue is over and has been decided in our favor. Now the court can proceed with its hearing on the merits of our case," said the Speaker, who was a member of the Philippine delegation sent to the Hague last July.
Manila filed a case in 2013 before the Hague court in a bid to seek a ruling on its right to explore and develop the waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Beijing, which has boycotted the proceedings, said that the dispute involved its territorial sovereignty over the entire South China Sea. It has dismissed claims that parts of the waters belong to the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Hague Court rejected Beijing's claim that the disputes were about territorial sovereignty and said additional hearings would be held to decide the merits of the Philippines' arguments.
"We are very happy with the Tribunal ruling in our country's favor in the case filed by our government to protect our rights in the West Philippine Sea," said Belmonte, the chairman emeritus of the National Unity Party (NUP).
“We must remember that this sea conflict is only one aspect and that through many years our country and its people have had very close, fruitful ties with China and we intend to sustain that," he added.