PH: China ‘9-dash-line’ doesn’t exist

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Philippine lead external counsel Paul Reichler (standing) confers with Solicitor General Florin Hilbay during round two oral arguments in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China at the UN arbitral court in The Hague on Tuesday. The empty table is reserved for China, which has refused to participate in the proceedings. (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN/Zoilo Velasco)

Philippine lead external counsel Paul Reichler (standing) confers with Solicitor General Florin Hilbay during round two oral arguments in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China at the UN arbitral court in The Hague on Tuesday. The empty table is reserved for China, which has refused to participate in the proceedings. (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN/Zoilo Velasco)

On day 1 of Round 2 of the South China Sea arbitration case in The Hague, the Philippine legal team told the United Nations arbitral court that China’s “historic claim over the nine-dash line” does not exist.

Its claim to the South China Sea has no basis in international law, the Philippines told the court in The Netherlands on Tuesday.

The court issued a statement early Wednesday, announcing it had “commenced the hearing on the merits and remaining issues of jurisdiction and admissibility” in the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines against China.

The hearings, which began 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday in The Hague (9:30 p.m. in Manila) at the Peace Palace, where the arbitral tribunal sits, were to end on or before Nov. 30.

Manila has called on the tribunal, which was established in 1899, to rule on the dispute, invoking the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario led the 48-member Philippine legal team, which went into the hearing emphasizing that China’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea, represented on new Chinese maps by nine dashes encompassing about 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway, had no basis in Unclos.

In a dispatch from The Netherlands, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte quoted renowned international lawyer Paul Reichler as telling the tribunal that “China’s historic rights claim and how these purported historic rights, supposedly derived under the Unclos, in fact do not exist under the provisions of the convention.”

“Mr. Reichler mentioned that China has asserted exclusive rights over the areas covered by the nine-dash line and has deprived the Philippines of fishing and exploration activities,” Valte said.

China’s expansive claims have put it in conflict with those of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Beijing is a party to Unclos but has rejected the tribunal’s jurisdiction over its dispute with the Philippines.

“Our position is clear: We will not participate [in] or accept the arbitration,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

The Philippines brought the case in January 2013 after China seized Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground off Zambales province well within Manila’s 360-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in June 2012.

Manila’s move angered Beijing, which set about building artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly archipelago, a group of about 100 islets, atolls and reefs in the middle of the South China Sea, to present the UN court with a fait accompli.

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