South China Sea: Philippines insists China’s compliance ‘non-negotiable’ on 4th anniversary of arbitral award, Australia sheds neutrality

Felicity Salina, International Law Officer

1 Aug 2020

The grapple over the South China Sea enters a new episode as Philippines calls for China’s compliance with the 2016 arbitral award issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on its 4th anniversary.

In an official statement, the Philippines has denounced China’s expansive claims over the disputed portions of the South China Sea “without any possibility or compromise”. The statement came after the US described China’s occupation of strategic points rich with natural resources as “illegal”.

Throughout the arbitration and since the ruling was delivered, China has consistently maintained that its claims over the disputed waters and resources remains unchanged. Despite repeated protests and warnings from neighboring countries with overlapping territorial rights – including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia – the People’s Republic continues to launch coercive measures on the same island nations, actions which led to the dispute in the first place. The Philippines, however, has revealed that China’s invasion is now reaching new heights such as militarization, island-building, and the deployment of naval patrols.

In a startling development, Australia declared its opposition of China’s claims before the United Nations on Thursday, 23 July. It stressed that China has no legal basis “to draw straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or ‘island groups’ in the South China Sea”. The declaration marks an historic shift in Australia’s stance on the matter, given its previous neutrality. Observers have claimed that the change may have been motivated by China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early days of its transmission, amongst others.

Read more about Australia’s move here: