The South China Sea Arbitration
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The South China Sea Arbitration

The Legal Dimension

Edited by S. Jayakumar, Tommy Koh, Robert Beckman, Tara Davenport and Hao D. Phan

Bringing together leading experts on the law of the sea, this book provides a detailed analysis of the significant aspects, findings and legal reasoning in the high-profile case of the South China Sea Arbitration between the Philippines and China. It examines major issues discussed in the Arbitration including jurisdiction, procedure, maritime entitlement, and the protection of the marine environment. It also explores the implications of the case for the South China Sea disputes and dispute settlement under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
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Chapter 11: Rocks versus islands: implications for protection of the marine environment

J Ashley Roach


This chapter examines the relationship between the criteria developed by the Arbitral Tribunal for distinguishing a rock from other islands with the environmental protection duties of all states, which the Award did not do. It suggests the Award is not an adverse precedent for those states claiming an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from rocks. The chapter also reviews state practice in this regard, which the Tribunal did not address in detail in its Award. The chapter concludes that the Tribunal’s criteria must be carefully applied to the facts and circumstances of each high-tide feature in assessing whether each feature is entitled to a continental shelf/EEZ or only a territorial sea, and predicts that few states will change their position on such features.

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