The final award in the Philippines versus China arbitration was the most anticipated decision of any international court or tribunal in the area of the law of the sea since the entry into force of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1994. What the tribunal did not rule on is as significant as what it did. It doesn’t say whose territorial claims are superior, or that China’s nine-dash line claim is illegal per se, or that China’s construction of artificial islands is in principle unlawful. The reasoning in this case is likely to have an impact on the development of a rules-based order for the oceans whether or not it is strictly complied with by the parties in the case. As an authoritative interpretation of UNCLOS by eminent law of the sea experts, the award will be studied by law students and government legal advisers for years to come.