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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED: 7:48 PM) Palace officials on Monday renewed the government’s appeal for China to reconsider its rejection of the formal invitation to bring the territorial dispute over the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. At the same time, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was preparing to meet with the Office of the Solicitor General for a review of maritime law, upon instructions from the President.
“We would hope that they will join us in the peaceful settlement of this matter. Again, we will exhaust all efforts to come up with a peaceful resolution,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario earlier said that ITLOS is the right body to determine which country has sovereign rights over the shoal.
The Hamburg-based tribunal is an independent judicial body established in 1982 by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a mediator in disputes arising from interpretations and applications of the UN convention.
President Benigno Aquino III over the weekend ordered all concerned government agencies to document the recent aggressive actions of Chinese vessels in the area for a possible case before the international tribunal.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the country is prepared to unilaterally raise its sovereign claim before the tribunal if Beijing insists on rejecting international arbitration.
Hernandez had said bringing the issue to ITLOS unilaterally would result in a validation of Philippine sovereignty, but not in a ruling on the territorial dispute.
"If we go to ITLOS unilaterally, it will not be for arbitration. It will be more for the validation of our sovereign rights," he said.
China claims all of the West Philippine Sea as a historic right, even those well within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone recognized by the United Nations such as Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.
De Lima to meet with OSG execs on maritime law review
Justice Secretary Leila said on Monday she is set to meet with officials of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) for the review of the country's Maritime Law, which President Aquino directed at the weekend.
The OSG is an attached agency of the DOJ.
The President wants the review of the Maritime Law in order to come up with the official position of the country in filing its argument before an international court concerning the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal stand-off that began April 10 when Chinese vessels blocked a Philippine Navy warship to prevent it from apprehending eight Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon west of Zambales province.
De Lima said one consideration of the review is whether or not a complaint will prosper even without the consent of the People's Republic of China (PROC).
China did not agree to bring up the dispute before the ITLOS. On Monday, however, Palace officials made one more effort to press Beijing to agree to mediation in the ITLOS.
De Lima did not give a time frame for the conduct of the review of the Maritime Law.