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EU affirms validity’ of 2016 arbitral award on South China Sea

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The European Union (EU) has underscored the finality and validity of the 2016 arbitral award on the South China Sea in its first-ever maritime cooperation meeting with the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a report by Philippine News Agency.

The agency said the Philippines and the EU held their first Subcommittee on Maritime Cooperation meeting on Sept. 27 in Brussels.

“They underscored the importance of respecting the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of states, and their maritime entitlements in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its dispute settlement mechanisms,” it said.


The two parties, it added, have reaffirmed their commitment to freedom of navigation and right of innocent passage and overflight in the South China Sea under UNCLOS.

The South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal, with the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration serving as its registry, invalidated China’s historic claims in waters situated within its “nine-dash line” in 2016.

These claims, the tribunal said, exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements provided for by the UNCLOS.

During the meeting, the Philippines and EU also agreed to work closely to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.


These include standing up for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-aggression as protected by the UN Charter.

They expressed serious concern over “unilateral actions” that endanger security and stability in the region, including recent incidents in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“Such activities also include those which damage the seabed and marine environment, interfere with the livelihoods of fishing communities and undermine the Philippines’ food security,” the DFA said.

“They emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions,” it added.

In addition, the two discussed possible areas of maritime cooperation, especially on sustainable development, ocean governance and connectivity.

The Philippine delegation was headed by DFA Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce and EU’s European External Action Service Acting Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific Paola Pampaloni.

The next subcommittee meeting will take place in Manila next year. 

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