‘Biggest-ever’ West PH Sea conference set on arbitral award’s 8th anniversary

/ 06:39 PM July 08, 2024

MANILA, Philippines—The “biggest-ever” West Philippine Sea conference this year will be held on July 12, marking the 8th anniversary of the 2016 arbitral award.

The conference will see key military leaders, ambassadors, and experts exchanging views on the landmark ruling.

Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR, one of the organizers of the event along with the embassies of the United States and Australia, said the arbitral a5ward “serves as a reminder of the Philippines’ victory in upholding its sovereign rights and the enduring strength of the rules-based international order.”

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“Underscoring the ongoing challenges and the need for sustained vigilance and collective action, renewing the shared commitment to maritime security among all participants forges stronger partnerships in exploring innovative strategies to safeguard common interests in the Indo-Pacific,” Manhit said in a statement on Monday.

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Beijing asserts sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea, including most of the West Philippine Sea, even if such a claim has been effectively invalidated by the arbitral award issued in July 2016.

The landmark ruling stemmed from a case filed by Manila in 2013, a year after its tense standoff with Beijing over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, whose lagoon the latter now effectively controls.

READ: No gov’t downplay of China’s actions in West Philippine Sea – Teodoro

Beijing continues to reject the ruling, prompting tensions with Manila, which continues to hold the line in the West Philippine Sea.

The June 17 incident in a naval outpost grounded in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal — one of the flashpoints of recent tensions in the West Philippine Sea — saw the most violent actions of China Coast Guard personnel so far, leading to what the Philippine military deemed as “looting” of its disassembled high-powered guns and even caused the thumb amputation of one of its naval personnel.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte pivoted to China, but his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reversed this move. He green-lighted joint patrols and military exercises with the United States in the West Philippine Sea and allowed Washington access to four more Philippine military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which angered Beijing.

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The Marcos administration’s policy shift also included the government’s so-called “transparency initiative” in the West Philippine Sea.

“Confronted with asymmetric security challenges, the Philippines remains steadfast in its stance, employing a whole-of-society approach to asserting its rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Manhit said. “The current administration’s firm pronouncements are complemented by the military’s efforts to boost external defense capabilities.”

Meanwhile, Manhit said ambassadors of the United States, Australia, Canada, France, and Japan to the Philippines will attend the event.

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The National Security Council, top military officials from the Philippine Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Presidential Office for Maritime Concerns are also expected to speak during the event.

For comprehensive coverage, in-depth analysis, and the latest updates on the West Philippine Sea issue, visit our special site here. Stay informed with articles, videos, and expert opinions.

TAGS: West Philippine Sea

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