The Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved an ordinance declaring July 12 of every year as West Philippine Sea Victory Day, in celebration of the United Nations international tribunal’s decision in favor of the Philippines against China regarding the country’s territorial and maritime claims in the WPS on July 12, 2016, during their regular session on Tuesday, July 9.

The case refers to the Philippines’ claims in the West Philippine Sea that fall within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The ordinance, which was filed by Liga ng mga Barangay President and Board Member Ferdinand Zaballa, was approved on its first and final reading.

Zaballa said the tribunal’s ruling was a “resounding affirmation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) and its dispute settlement mechanism.”

“It definitely settled the status of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the region, rejecting claims that exceeded the limits set by UNCLOS. More importantly, it is now part of international law,” he said in a privilege speech during their session.

He also said the victory has paved the way for new paths and trajectories that reflect the Philippines’ rich maritime heritage, which Filipinos should firmly hold on to and believe in the country’s indisputable rights over its maritime domains.

“The ruling serves as a beacon guiding all nations toward a rules-based international order,” he said.

Zaballa also said he is thankful to the international community and the growing number of nations who extended support to the tribunal’s ruling.

He further stated that with the victory, Filipinos should remain committed to securing the country’s interests in the WPS and be inspired by the support from other countries, especially those who also have similar disputes.

Moreover, the board member said the victory is a “proof of our dedication to a peaceful resolution of disputes or diplomatic solutions instead of violence or excessive use of force.”

He said with the country opting to file a case in the international tribunal, the Philippines has stood for the respect of human rights and principles of respect for the sovereignty of every state, which he hopes will serve as a reminder to all nations that respect for international laws is a foundation of peace and unity.

“As we commemorate this victory, may it serve as inspiration to every Filipino that, however small a nation we are, we can stand and emerge victorious in legal fronts,” Zaballa said.

“May this also serve as a lesson to us that we need to conserve and protect our seas and natural resources not only for our own good but also for future generations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Board Member Rafael Ortega Jr. also filed a resolution requesting Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Rep. Jose Alvarez to file a bill in the House of Representatives declaring every 12th day of June as WPS Day and another resolution requesting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to issue an executive order for the same declaration, making it a nationwide event.

“After all, this victory is not for Palawan alone but for the entire Philippines,” Ortega explained.