PH lawyer vs China: ‘This is a victory for rule of law’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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PH lawyer vs China: ‘This is a victory for rule of law’
(UPDATED) 'It is also a great victory for the other coastal states along the South China Sea,' the Philippines' lead counsel Paul Reichler says

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines’ lead counsel against China, Paul Reichler, hailed Manila’s victory against Beijing on Tuesday, July 12, in a historic case over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a telephone conference with select journalists on Tuesday evening, Reichler said: “We think that this is not only a victory for the Philippines. This is also a victory for the rule of law and international relations.” (READ: PH lawyer vs China: ‘Giant slayer’ who defeated US)

Reichler added that this is “a contribution to the strength” of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the so-called Constitution for the Oceans.

“It is also a great victory for the other coastal states along the South China Sea, in particular Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, because although the award is legally binding only on the two parties, China and the Philippines, it has very strong implications for other coastal states in the South China Sea.”

Reichler issued this statement at around 6:30 pm on Tuesday, less than two hours after an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, released its historic ruling that favors the Philippines.

Next step: Enforcing the ruling

During his telephone conference with journalists, Reichler also explained how to enforce the ruling even if there is no international police to do this. 

Reichler said: “It will depend to a great extent on how vigorously all of the affected states, all of the states which have been prejudiced by the 9-dash line, assert their rights against China.”

The 9-dash line is China’s demarcation to claim the West Philippine Sea.

The Hague tribunal on Tuesday said that “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘9-dash line.'”

Reichler pointed out that, by saying the words “vigorous” and “assert,” he means vigorously asserting rights “diplomatically, legally, and above all peacefully.”

Reichler said: “If these other states stand up for their rights in the way that the Philippines has done, you’ll get the situation where all of the neighboring states are insisting that China withdraw its illegal claims and respect their legal rights which have been defined and recognized and acknowledged today, because those states have the same rights as the Philippines.”

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email