Monthly Archives: January 2013

US lawmakers back PHL decision to take China disputes to UN arbitration

(Updated 2:40 p.m.) – A visiting US congressional delegation expressed support on Tuesday to the Philippine government’s decision to take long standing territorial disputes with China before a United Nations arbitration body. Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta said the five-man US delegation led by Congressman Edward Royce (Republican, California), chairman of the House committee on Foreign Affairs, “expressed their full support” to Manila’s efforts “to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.” “There were some discussion on the details of our actions and they were very interested in the merits of our arguments. They’re very supportive of it,” Sorreta told reporters after the group met Philippine officials led by Secretary Albert del Rosario at the Department of Foreign Affairs. The US lawmakers’ backing is among the first foreign expression of support to the Philippine government’s filing last week of an arbitration case before the UN to try to declare China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea, part of which is known as West Philippine Sea. China has yet to officially declare if it would get involved in the landmark case, Sorreta said. From Manila, the US delegation will proceed to Beijing and would likely discuss the territorial disputes with Chinese officials, Sorreta said. Other members of the US delegation are Representatives Tom Marino (Republican, Pennsylvania), Eliot Engel (Democratic, New York), Vern Buchanan (Republican, Florida), and Matt Salmon (Republican, Arizona). “They are very, very interested in the issue. They asked us, they asked the Secretary for details and the Secretary briefed them. They are very interested in the peaceful resolution of this issue,” Sorreta said. Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia, who was present at the meeting, said Del Rosario explained to the US lawmakers that Manila needed to go on a legal track because the country’s efforts at diplomacy and moves to settle it through the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), “have not yielded any results.” Manila has maintained that a rules-based approach is the only legitimate way in addressing disputes through a legal framework such as the UNCLOS. UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty. Alarmed by China’s expansionist moves, which the Philippines called “unlawful” and “invalid,” the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III took a bold step last week when it elevated its long-standing maritime rift with Beijing before the UN. China is citing historical entitlements as basis for its huge claims over the South China Sea. The South China Sea is dotted with islands, shoals, cays, reefs and rock formations and is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. It is claimed in part or in whole by China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The resource-rich waters is an international waterway where more than 50 percent of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage pass each year. Many have feared the conflicts could be Asia’s next flashpoint. —KG, GMA News

The impossible dream and the West Philippine Sea

by Jay L. Batongbacal  @ http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/20550-the-impossible-dream-and-the-west-philippine-sea Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario’s announcement that the Philippines is initiating UNCLOS Annex VII Arbitration has finally ended the suspense on the announced intentions of the Philippines of taking China to before an international tribunal. But it leaves many unanswered questions.The most obvious question is whether it is possible to take China to arbitration without its consent. The government believes so, relying on the fact that China, like the Philippines, accepted arbitration by default because it did not choose any other procedure upon ratification of UNCLOS. However, this is only one aspect of consent in international arbitration. The importance of consent of both parties cannot be underestimated; it is essential at each stage throughout the entire arbitration process, from the appointment of the arbitral panel, determination of jurisdiction to proceed, implementation of the process and trial on the merits, and compliance with the award. To achieve an unquestionably binding resolution, State consent is crucial at all these stages of the proceeding. The second question is what happens next, what might China do at each of these stages in the coming months or years? DFA says that the process will take 3-4 years. In reality many things can happen during that period. China’s options First, China may either join the arbitration by appointing the 5-man arbitral panel with the Philippines, or ignore the Application completely. Joining the arbitration however is contrary to China’s long-standing position against allowing any third party to intervene in any of its disputes with other States, so most believe this to be highly unlikely. But if China still ignores the Application after two months, the Philippines may request the President of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to appoint the remaining members of the panel. However, the idea of appointing a panel in this manner is so far untested, and there is no precedent for the unilateral appointment of an arbitral panel over the objections of a disputing State. If constituted, the panel can establish its rules of procedure to govern timelines, reception of pleadings and evidence, and decision-making. Its first order of business will be to determine whether it has jurisdiction to settle the case, and if the claim is well-founded. China may appoint arbitrators and participate only for the determination of whether the case can be settled by the arbitral panel in this preliminary phase. It may raise various objections: such as that it has not given consent, or that despite the Application’s description the case actually falls within either the mandatory or optional exceptions under UNCLOS; or, that there is a procedural infirmity such as failure to exhaust local remedies, or the existence of another dispute settlement mechanism under a different agreement such as the 2002 Declaration of Conduct; or that UNCLOS Annex V Conciliation instead of arbitration is the proper 3rd party mode applicable under the circumstances. Any one of these may be cause for a finding of lack of jurisdiction. If China does not participate at all, the Philippines must then be the one to persuade the panel that none of those objections apply, and also it is sufficiently empowered to proceed with the case and decide on the merits. This will not be an easy task: as stated, an arbitration conducted over the express objection and without the participation of one of the parties contradicts the very essence of the international arbitration process. If the panel decides that it does have jurisdiction, China may then decide to either continue with or withdraw from the proceedings. Continuation of the proceedings will require China to defend the so-called “nine dashed lines” as a singular exception to the system of maritime zones established by UNCLOS. Most scholars agree that the nine dashed lines is indefensible in international law, and is precisely the kind of exaggerated maritime claim that UNCLOS was designed to suppress. The inherent weakness of the position is therefore a serious disincentive for China. If China decides to risk a defense, it would probably be accompanied by a legal offensive. It may invoke the equitable doctrines of estoppel and “he who comes to court for equity must come with clean hands,” attacking the validity of the Philippines’ own maritime zones based on what it calls the “illegal occupation” of the Kalayaan Island Group and calling it to task for previously insisting that its national territory extended westward only as far as the 1898 Treaty of Paris limits, and for enacting PD 1596 inconsistently with UNCLOS. If it decides to fully participate in the arbitration, it may also attempt to expand its scope by seeking a favorable determination of sovereignty over the islands and rocks themselves, which the Philippine Application deliberately avoids. A full determination of not only maritime zones but also of sovereignty over the islands and rocks in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) poses extreme risks to both sides, more so for China since on balance it has more maritime areas to lose. Again, it would contradict their long-held policy against third party intervention. It would thus be perfectly logical for China to instead withdraw, as this would leave issues hanging at the status quo. Scenarios If the arbitral proceedings reach argument and decision on the merits, the tribunal shall either award or deny the reliefs sought by the Application. Assuming that the Philippines is entirely successful, it would have on hand a definitive opinion about the illegitimacy of the nine dashed lines and a legal characterization of waters and seabed areas measured from the western coast of the main archipelago. Its practical effect is to officially declare illegal all artificial structures on submerged reefs not built by the Philippines and constructed without its permission. Foreign occupation of islands and rocks would not be similarly affected, since this is integral to the issue of sovereignty over islands and rocks that the Philippine Application excludes from consideration. Since China currently occupies mostly underwater features and no full-pledged natural islands, the ultimate gain from a completely favorable award for the Philippines are a statement of legal obligations to remove structures like those on Mischief Reef, and to stop interfering with Philippine fishing, petroleum exploration, or other activities. China would then decide whether or not to recognize and comply with these terms of the award. It would be […]

China’s plan to develop and fortify an expansive area of the resource-rich but disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) lacks merit under international law

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino has accused China of harassing two Philippine fishing boats in disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) waters, allegedly driving out one that had sheltered from rough seas. Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Aquino said the two Scarborough Shoal incidents had led to Manila seeking United Nations arbitration this week over the territorial dispute. Aquino, who did not say when the incidents occurred, said “Chinese vessels” approached to within nine meters (10 yards) of a Filipino fishing boat near the shoal. “While they (Chinese vessels) were approaching, their horns were supposedly blaring at full blast, causing apprehension to our fishing vessel,” he said, according to a transcript released by the government on Saturday. A second Filipino boat was driven out by Chinese vessels shortly after it took shelter near the shoal, he added. “According to the affidavit (crew’s depositions), they were told to go back to the rough waters.” The shoal, located closer to the Philippine island of Luzon than the Chinese mainland, has been a source of friction since April last year when Chinese vessels stopped the Philippine Navy from arresting alleged Chinese poachers. Aquino, saying only that the incidents were the latest in a series of assertive Chinese actions in the area, stressed the Scarborough Shoal — which Manila calls “Bajo de Masinloc” and China calls “Huangyan island” — and its surrounding waters are part of the Philippines’ “exclusive economic zone”. China claims most of the West Philippine Sea, including waters and islands close to the shores of its neighbours. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario however this week said Manila had taken China to a UN tribunal to challenge its claim to most of the sea, including territory belonging to the archipelago, and would ask the arbitration panel to declare Chinese claims in the area invalid. Aquino said he could not allow China to claim “effective control over Bajo de Masinloc by ordering our vessels out”, as this could encourage Beijing to move into the Philippine-claimed and allegedly resource-rich Reed Bank. “We are not threatening anybody, but if we don’t stand up for our rights, who do we expect will be standing up for our rights?” Aquino said. China’s embassy spokesmen could not be reached for comment Saturday.

PNoy says he consulted predecessors on move vs China

President Benigno Aquino III consulted lawmakers and two of his immediate predecessors before the Philippines made the move of dragging China before an international body to settle a territorial dispute. Aquino told reporters covering his visit to Switzerland: “We brought the matter before them [lawmakers and former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada]… Nobody objected (to going to arbitration).” Portions of the interview were aired on government-run dzRB radio Saturday noon. The President said he also invited members of the judiciary to get their inputs but they were having an en banc meeting at the time. Aquino was quoted in the dzRB report as saying the Philippines had been “very patient” with China, but “unfortunately there’s no reciprocation.” Last Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced it is haling China before a United Nations arbitration body to settle a simmering territorial row. DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said this involves bringing China before an arbitral tribunal under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.” The DFA, however, said that despite the move, the Philippines considers China a friend. “We will continue to pursue an enhancement of our bilateral relations in all areas of cooperation,” it said. Meanwhile, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte on Saturday declined to comment on reports that Thailand will try to find a common position among Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) members on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) issue. A report on Bangkok Post quoted Sihasak Phuangketkaew, permanent secretary at the Foreign Ministry, as saying this (Thailand’s effort) is by virtue of its being as coordinator of ASEAN-China relations. The report said ASEAN had appointed Thailand as its country coordinator for ASEAN-China relations from July 2012 to July 2015. It said Thailand also plans to hold separate talks with each of the countries that lay claim to disputed areas, as attempts to resolve the conflicts in larger meetings failed last year. ASEAN members Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei lay claim to parts of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), along with China and Taiwan. Asked if this will affect the Philippines’ present case against China before the UN, Valte would not comment. “Perhaps ang international law expert na ang dapat sumagot at kasamahan sa DFA kung magkakaroon ng effect (It is best to ask international law experts and officials of the DFA on whether Thailand’s effort would affect the Philippines recent move),” she said. — LBG, GMA News

Roilo Golez privilege speech supporting West Philippine Sea claim vs China

Cong. Roilo Golez delivered a privilege speech to strongly support this. The Philippines has taken China to a United Nations arbitration tribunal to challenge Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea (which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea) and compel it to respect the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and stop Chinese incursions into areas in the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines. The Philippines initiated the compulsory proceedings against China as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and asked the UN to declare the Chinese “nine-dash line” outlining its claim to most of the South China Sea, including waters and islands close to its neighbors, as invalid and illegal. It demands that China “desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 Unclos.” “The Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before the Arbitral Tribunal… in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a press briefing Tuesday. “The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China… we hope that the arbitral proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution,” he said. Del Rosario did not take questions. The Department of Foreign Affairs instead issued a question-and-answer statement to reporters. Allies not involved The DFA said the move was a decision of the Philippines alone. It said its major allies, the United States and Japan, had nothing to do with the legal action. It said the action was “in defense of our national territory and maritime domain.” In a “notification and statement of claim” filed before the UN, the Philippine government said the arbitration was not seeking to declare who owns which islands in the disputed waters. “The Philippines does not seek in this arbitration a determination of which party enjoys sovereignty over the islands claimed by both of them. Nor does it request a delimitation of any maritime boundaries,” the government said. In its submission, the Philippines asked the UN to compel China to respect the Philippines’ rights to exclusively explore and exploit resources within its EEZ and continental shelf as declared under Unclos, citing recent Chinese actions that constituted an excessive exercise of sovereignty over disputed territories. It asked the UN to declare that the Philippines is entitled, as provided for by Unclos, to “12 nautical miles of territorial sea, 200 nautical miles of EEZ and established boundaries of its continental shelf from the baselines.”  

Why the Philippines will bring the South China Sea conflict to the UN

By Raissa Robles @ http://raissarobles.com/2013/01/23/why-the-philippines-will-bring-the-south-china-sea-conflict-to-the-un/ The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has just released the following to explain to Filipinos its actions on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) conflict. To the Philippines, “China is a good friend. Arbitration is a peaceful and amicable process to settle a dispute between and among friends. ” Q & A on the UNCLOS Arbitral Proceedings against China to Achieve a Peaceful and Durable Solution to the Dispute in the West Philippine Sea 1.Why are we bringing China to an arbitral tribunal? China’s 9-dash line claim encompasses practically the entire West Philippine Sea (WPS). We must challenge the unlawful claim of China under their 9-dash line in order to protect our national territory and maritime domain. 2.Why do we have to do this now? Having exhausted all possible initiatives, we feel the time to act is now. If we do not act now, we will be in default. 3.What is the basis of our legal action? The legal action is pursuant to the President’s constitutional mandate to pursue the national interest and defend the Philippine territory and maritime domain. It also pursues the policy of a rules-based approach based on international law, especially UNCLOS, in resolving the disputes in the WPS. 4.What do we expect from this arbitral tribunal? We hope that the arbitral tribunal will issue an award in accordance with international law that will direct China to respect our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our EEZ, continental shelf, contiguous zone, and territorial sea over the West Philippine Sea, and to desist from undertaking unlawful acts that violate our rights. 5.What is the process of arbitration? Under Annex VII of UNCLOS, the arbitration process begins by notifying the other party to the dispute and giving a statement of facts on which the notification is based. In accordance with this process, the Philippines through the DFA handed the Note Verbale to the Chinese Ambassador in Manila in the afternoon of 22 January 2013 notifying China that the Philippines is bringing the dispute in the WPS before an arbitral tribunal under Annex VII of UNCLOS. The next step is to form the 5-member arbitration panel. When the panel is formed, the parties will present their documents to further explain their case. 6.Is the legal track the only option? We have adopted three tracks in terms of the political, diplomatic and legal approaches. At this stage, the legal track presents the most durable option to defend the national interest and territory on the basis of international law. 7.Who filed the case and where? The Philippines filed the arbitration case against China. The parties will have to agree on the place where the arbitral tribunal will hold the hearing of the case. Under UNCLOS, Parties to a dispute have the choice on where to file the case, either in the International Court of Justice, ITLOS, arbitral tribunal and special arbitral tribunal. The Philippines chose to bring this case before the arbitral tribunal because it believes it is the appropriate body to hear the complaint of the Philippines against China. 8.How long will the arbitration process last? Based on the cases so far handled by international tribunals on maritime disputes, the case would take 3-4 years. 9.Will we win our case? We believe we have 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. We expect international law to be the great equalizer. 10.Who are the members of the PH legal team? Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza is the agent or the legal representative of the Philippines in this arbitration case. Mr. Paul Reichler of the Washington law firm Foley and Hoag is the lead counsel. 11.Why are the other countries not filing a case against China? The Philippines is taking action based on its national interest and not on the actions or non-action of other countries. 12.What if China refuses to participate in the arbitration? The Philippines will pursue the procedures and remedies available under Annex VII of UNCLOS to achieve the award outlined in the Statement of Claim. Annex VII of UNCLOS provides for compulsory proceedings with binding decision. 13.What’s next for the Philippines? The Philippines will now prepare for the formation of the 5-member arbitration panel and agree on the venue. 14.Do you have the support of the other branches of the government? Yes, all the three branches of the Philippine Government support the President’s decision to bring the dispute in the West Philippine Sea before the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal. 15.What will be the effects on Philippines-China economic relations? As arbitration is friendly and peaceful, we hope that there will be no adverse effects on our trade with China. President Aquino and President Hu Jintao agreed that the bilateral agenda will be moved forward while contentious issues will be abstracted for separate treatment. We are all for improving our economic relations with China but it should not be at the expense of surrendering our national sovereignty. 16.What will be the effects on tourism? The Philippines and China have an incredible people-to-people engagement. We look forward to enhance it through an effective tourism program. 17.What will happen to our OFWs who may be affected by this action? The Philippine Government will provide the appropriate safety net for the OFWs. 18.Did the US and Japan influence your decision to take this action? No. The Philippines is taking this action independently. 19.What are the opinions of the different sectors in Philippine society? While there are varied opinions on the dispute, nevertheless, all Filipinos should unite to support the President’s constitutional mandate to protect Philippine territory and national interest. 20. Will this result into a military conflict? China is a good friend. Arbitration is a peaceful and amicable process to settle a dispute between and among friends. 21.What will happen to PH-China relations? We will continue to pursue an enhancement of our bilateral relations in all areas of cooperation. 22.Would this action affect ASEAN? We are counting on ASEAN to support us in finding a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute. The Philippines must protect its own national interest in this regional forum as well […]

PHL takes territorial spat with China to int’l arbitration

Updated 6:27 p.m.) The Philippines has formally notified China that it is bringing their long-standing territorial disputes over parts of the resource-rich South China Sea to international arbitration for a peaceful and internationally-accepted resolution, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Tuesday. Del Rosario said the Philippines handed a note verbale or diplomatic note to Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Tuesday afternoon to notify China of its decision to elevate its complaint to an Arbitral Tribunal, an option provided for by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “To this day, a solution is still elusive,” Del Rosario told a press conference. “We hope that the arbitral proceedings shall bring this dispute to durable solution.” The move to bring the disputes to the UN is Manila’s latest attempt to end its long-running maritime row with China, which has gone nowhere as both sides refused to back down from their hardline positions. Cases handled by international tribunals on maritime disputes normally take three to four years to resolve, the DFA said. Attached to the note verbale is the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim, which challenges China’s so-called nine-dash claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. China’s nine-dash line is a U-shaped map that covers nearly 90 percent of the waters and overlaps with the sovereign territories of its Asian neighbors like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Manila’s complaint also demands China “to desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” The Philippines, Vietnam and China have particularly figured in separate fresh altercations in 2011 and in 2012 that have sparked Asian and international concerns over a possible major armed clashed that could threaten access to and the passage of commercial and cargo ships in the busy waters. “We strongly believe that this action is the appropriate response to put our diplomatic relations in its proper context,” Del Rosario said. “We hope that China would join us in this aspiration.” The Chinese embassy in Manila maintained its long-held position that China “has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in South China Sea and its adjacent waters.” “The Chinese side strongly holds the disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations,” Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhang Hua said. The South China Sea is dotted with islands, shoals, cays, reefs and rock formations and is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Many have feared the conflicts could be Asia’s next flashpoint. To assert its claim, Beijing has established a new city called Sansha under its southern Hainan province to politically administer its claimed territories in the disputed waters, including areas within Philippine sovereignty. — KBK, GMA News

Statement by the Secretary of DFA on the UNCLOS Arbitral Proceedings against China

Department of Foreign Affairs @ http://www.dfa.gov.ph/index.php/newsroom/dfa-releases/7300-statement-by-secretary-of-foreign-affairs-albert-del-rosario-on-the-unclos-arbitral-proceedings-against-china-to-achieve-a-peaceful-and-durable-solution-to-the-dispute-in-the-wps PDF download   Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the print and broadcast media. I have the honor to introduce to you the Honorable Solicitor General of the Philippines Francis H. Jardeleza who stands with me here today. 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 (UNCLOS) in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS). At around one o’clock this afternoon, the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Ma Keqing was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and was handed a Note Verbale by Assistant Secretary Teresa Lazaro. The Note Verbale contains the Notification and Statement of Claim that challenges before the Arbitral Tribunal the validity of China’s nine-dash line claim to almost the entire South China Sea (SCS) including the WPS and to desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 UNCLOS. I furnish you with a copy of the Note Verbale with the Notification and Statement of Claim. This Notification initiates the arbitral proceedings under Article 287 and Annex VII of UNCLOS. The initiation of Arbitral Proceedings against China on the nine-dash line is an operationalization of President Aquino’s policy for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the WPS in accordance with international law specifically UNCLOS. The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. On numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the Philippines has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle these disputes. To this day, a solution is still elusive.   We hope that the Arbitral Proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution. Our legal position before this UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal is explained in this carefully crafted Notification and Statement of Claim.   I invite the media to study closely the legal document we have given you so as to accurately report on the Philippine legal position. Allow me, however, to highlight some salient points in the Notification and Statement of Claim: 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. 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. 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. The Philippines is conscious of China’s Declaration of August 25, 2006 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. In this context, the Philippines is requesting the Arbitral Tribunal to issue an Award that, among others: –       Declares that 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; –       Declares that China’s maritime claims in the SCS based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid; –       Requires China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS; and –       Requires that China desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines asserts that the Arbitral Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and make an award based on its Notification and Statement of Claim because the dispute is about the interpretation and application by States Parties of their obligations under the UNCLOS.   Article 287 (1) of UNCLOS provides that “settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of this Convention” may be referred by the Parties for resolution under Part XV of UNCLOS. The Philippines further asserts that the claim is well founded in fact and law based on the Notification and Statement of Claims and supplementary documents that will be submitted in the course of the arbitral proceedings. Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza is the agent or legal representative for the Philippines in this Arbitral Proceedings. The lead counsel of the Philippines is Mr. Paul Reichler of Foley and Hoag LLP. The Philippines has always asserted that international law including UNCLOS will be the great equalizer in resolving this dispute over the West Philippine Sea. While we proceed with the legal track, the Philippines continuous to exert all efforts to move forward and enhance its relations with China on the basis of mutual respect. We strongly believe that this action is the appropriate response to put our diplomatic relations in its proper context. We hope that China would join us in this aspiration. This ends our press briefing, ladies and gentlemen. We will give you a set of questions with corresponding responses to complete your information. We thank you as we understand you have a deadline to meet. END

Philippines Takes Sea Dispute With China to Tribunal

By RHEA SANDIQUE-CARLOS And JOSEPHINE CUNETA @ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324624404578257621131240336.html MANILA—The Philippines is taking its territorial dispute with China to an international tribunal, raising the stakes in the political standoff among several countries with overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea. “The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime disputes with China,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Tuesday at a news conference, adding that the two countries have been expressing their views to each other since 1995 in attempt to settle the dispute. “To this day, a solution is still elusive,” Mr. Del Rosario said. He said the foreign-affairs department summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Tuesday afternoon and informed him that Manila is asking an international arbitration tribunal—provided for under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos—to declare that China’s South China Sea claims are “unlawful” under the convention. The Philippines hopes the tribunal will “achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea,” Mr. Del Rosario said, using his country’s name for the area. Beijing’s embassy in Manila quickly responded, saying China “has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in South China Sea and its adjacent waters.” “The Chinese side strongly holds the disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations. This is also the consensus reached by parties concerned in the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea,” the statement said. The declaration, signed in 2002 by China and the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, pledges to resolve disputes through direct negotiations. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t have an immediate comment Tuesday night. The ministry didn’t immediately respond to a list of questions faxed late in the afternoon. Beijing is becoming increasingly assertive in its claims over large swaths of the South China Sea, including islands and shoals that are also claimed by Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan. The area has rich fishing grounds, vital shipping lanes, and potential reserves of oil and natural gas. In recent years China’s government has built and occupied structures on reefs that are part of the Philippines’ continental shelf. Last February, two Chinese vessels blocked a Philippine ship that was conducting a seismic survey in the disputed area for London-based Forum Energy PLC, controlled by Philex Petroleum Corp. The Philippines maintains a military garrison on one of the disputed islands, and the government has been referring to the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea” since last year. Military ships from the two countries engaged in a two-month standoff early last year at Scarborough Shoal, about 120 nautical miles (220 kilometers) west of the Philippine island of Luzon. In June, China formally created a new administrative zone under its southern island province of Hainan, encompassing most of the disputed area on an official map within a line broken into nine sections. Beijing also submitted a map with the controversial boundary, often called the “nine-dash line,” to the U.N. China then announced a law calling for the inspection, expulsion or detention of vessels entering its territory within the line. Mr. Del Rosario said Tuesday that the maritime area within the nine-dash line includes parts of the Philippines’ continental shelf or the international seabed. He said Manila will ask the tribunal to declare China’s claims within the line invalid, and to require that China bring its domestic laws into conformity with its Unclos obligations. The Philippines will be represented at the tribunal by the country’s Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and lead counsel Paul Reichler of U.S.-based law firm Foley and Hoag LLP. “While we proceed with the legal track, the Philippines continues to exert all efforts to move forward and enhance its relations with China on the basis of mutual respect,” Mr. Del Rosario said.