By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines – China has rejected and returned yesterday the Notification and Statement of Claim of the Philippine government to initiate arbitral proceedings against its nine-dash-line claim in the West Philippine Sea, but the process will proceed despite Beijing’s latest action.
Sources said Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing was at the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday to meet with officials of the DFA-Asia Pacific Affairs desk and inform them that China was returning the note and accompanying notice on arbitration.
Ma reportedly told the DFA that the Chinese government would not accept international proceedings over the dispute.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also announced that Ma met with DFA officials and returned the note and accompanying notice.
According to Hong, Ma said China considered both the note and notice of arbitration as having “serious mistakes both in fact and law.”
China hopes that the Philippine side would uphold its commitment, not take any move that may complicate or expand the issue, and respond positively to suggestions of China regarding establishing of a consultation mechanism on maritime issues and reopen trust measures between the two countries.
Beijing also urged Manila to return to the right track, meaning bilateral negotiations to resolve the dispute.
In a statement, the DFA said China’s action “will not interfere with the process of arbitration initiated by the Philippines on January 22, 2013.”
“The arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” it said. under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” it said.
Ma reiterated China’s often stated position that it has indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea encompassed by its nine-dash line claim.
“This excessive claim is the core issue of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China,” the DFA said. “The Philippines remains committed to arbitration which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all.”
The DFA summoned Ma last Jan. 22 and DFA Assistant Secretary for Asia-Pacific Affairs Teresa Lazaro handed her a note verbale.
The diplomatic note contained the Notification and Statement of Claim that challenges before the Arbitral Tribunal the validity of China’s nine-dash line claim and 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 (UNCLOS).
DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Notification initiates the arbitral proceedings under Article 287 and Annex VII of UNCLOS.
The Chinese embassy maintained that disputes in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) should be settled through direct negotiations by the parties concerned.
Del Rosario said the initiation of arbitral proceedings against China on the nine-dash line is part of President Aquino’s policy for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with UNCLOS.
China’s nine-dash line claim virtually lays claim on the entire West Philippine Sea, which the Philippines believes must be challenged in order to protect its national territory and maritime domain.
The Philippines formally invited China last April to bring their claim before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for a legal and lasting solution to the territorial dispute.
However, China rejected the Philippine invitation. In raising an argument to evade the ITLOS, China viewed the submission of maritime dispute to international arbitration as a “weird” thing in international affairs.