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World | National

PH finally files case vs China before Unclos tribunal over disputed territories

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines - After exhausting "almost all political and diplomatic avenues" for peaceful negotiations, the Philippines has finally decided to file a case against China over its excessive territorial claims in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario announced Tuesday. 

At 1 p.m., Del Rosario personally advised Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing about the country's decision. The DFA chief handed Ma a note verbale that contains the notification and statement of claim, challenging before the tribunal the validity of China's nine-dash claim to almost all of the territories in South China Sea, including areas being claimed by the Philippines. 

“This afternoon, the Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an Arbitral Tribunal under Article 287 and Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea,” Del Rosario told reporters Tuesday afternoon after his meeting with Ma.

The DFA chief said the legal action against China “is an operationalization of President (Benigno) Aquino III’s policy for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the WPS in accordance with international law specifically Unclos.”

The following are some of the salient points in the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim against China:

1. The Philippines asserts that China’s so-called nine-dash line claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful. 

2. Within the maritime area encompassed by the 9-dash line, China has also laid claim to, occupied and built structures on certain submerged banks, reefs and low tide elevations that do not qualify as islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of the Philippine continental shelf, or the international seabed.   In addition, China has occupied certain small, uninhabitable coral projections that are barely above water at high tide, and which are “rocks” under Article 121 (3) of UNCLOS.

3. China has interfered with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its rights within its legitimate maritime zones, as well as to the aforementioned features and their surrounding waters.

4. The Philippines is conscious of China’s Declaration of August 25, 2008 under Article 298 of UNCLOS (regarding optional exceptions to the compulsory proceedings), and has avoided raising subjects or making claims that China has, by virtue of that Declaration, excluded from arbitral jurisdiction.

5. The Philippines asserts that China’s so-called nine-dash line claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful. 

6. Within the maritime area encompassed by the 9-dash line, China has also laid claim to, occupied and built structures on certain submerged banks, reefs and low tide elevations that do not qualify as islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of the Philippine continental shelf, or the international seabed.   In addition, China has occupied certain small, uninhabitable coral projections that are barely above water at high tide, and which are “rocks” under Article 121 (3) of UNCLOS.

7. China has interfered with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its rights within its legitimate maritime zones, as well as to the aforementioned features and their surrounding waters.

8. The Philippines is conscious of China’s Declaration of August 25, 2008 under Article 298 of UNCLOS (regarding optional exceptions to the compulsory proceedings), and has avoided raising subjects or making claims that China has, by virtue of that Declaration, excluded from arbitral jurisdiction.

The Philippines is asking the tribunal to issue an award that would declare, among others, that:

1. China’s rights in regard to maritime areas in the South China Sea, like the rights of the Philippines, are those that are established by UNCLOS, and consist of its rights to a Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone under Part II of UNCLOS, to an EEZ under Part V, and to a Continental Shelf under Part VI;

2. China’s maritime claims in the SCS based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid;

The Philippines’ petition also asks the tribunal to:

1. Require China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS; and

2. Require that China desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea. 

China's 'indisputable sovereignty'

Reacting to the Philippine’s decision to file a case against China, Chinese embassy spokesman Zhang Hua maintained that China has an “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands and its adjacent waters.

In an interview, Zhang relayed the reaction of Ma after the latter she received the note verbale from Del Rosario.

 “Ambassador Ma reiterated the principle position of the Chinese side, and stressed that China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in South China Sea and its adjacent waters,” Zhang said in an interview.

“The Chinese side strongly holds the disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concernd through negotiations. This is also the consensus reached by parties concerned in the DOC(The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea),” Zhang added.

Independent action 

Meanwhile, Del Rosario said the Philippines’ decision was made without any influence from its ally, the United States, and Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China over Senkaku Islands in East China Sea.

“No. The Philippines is taking this action independently,” the DFA chief said.

The DFA believes that it has a “very good case under international law”.

“In any legal action, however, there are many different factors to consider. What is more important is that we are able to present our case against China and defend our national interest and maritime domain before an independent international tribunal,” the department said.

“We expect international law to be the great equalizer,” it added.

 

 


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