On 12 July 2016, the final Award in the arbitration between the Republic of the Philippines and The Peoples' Republic of China was issued by the Tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("UNCLOS"). Much international media attention has been focused on the arbitration, which concerned a number of issues in relation to the rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, in respect of an area known as the "nine-dash line". The Award has been hailed as "historic" in terms of the interpretation and application of UNCLOS.
In the Award, the Tribunal emphasised that in light of limitations on compulsory dispute settlement under UNCLOS, it would not rule on any question of sovereignty over territory and would not delimit any boundary between the Parties. The Tribunal found in favour of the Philippines on the main points in issue. In the Award, amongst other things, the Tribunal made a number of important statements on the interaction between UNCLOS and claimed historic rights, the nature and features of "low tide elevations", "rocks" and "islands", and the obligations of States in relation to the protection of the marine environment.
A summary of the 500-page Award and the key findings of the Tribunal are set out below.