The Philippines’ UNCLOS Claim and the PR Battle Against China


As expected, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario announced Sunday that the Philippines has submitted a memorial seeking a ruling on China’s “nine dash line” from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The Philippines seeks to have China’s claim to much of the South China Sea, including several features within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, declared invalid under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The case would be the first time international legal experts formally consider the validity of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

According to Rosario, the memorial is nearly 4,000 pages in length, including Manila’s analysis of applicable laws, the “specific relief sought by the Philippines,” and documentary evidence and maps designed to back up Philippine claims. Rosario ended his statement by saying:

With firm conviction, the ultimate purpose of the Memorial is our national interest. It is about defending what is legitimately ours. It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations. It is about helping to preserve regional peace, security and stability. And finally, it is about seeking not just any kind of resolution but a just and durable solution grounded on International Law.

While there have been many reports on China’s PR battle against Japan, few have noticed that the Philippines is also attempting to defend its territorial dispute in the court of public opinion. The move to file a request for arbitration in UNCLOS is part of this gambit. Thus, Rosario’s final statement on the arbitration, while it acknowledges the paramount importance of the Philippines’ “national interest,” also seeks to claim the moral high ground by painting the case as a milestone in regional security and international law. By filing such a case, Manila not only hopes to win a favorable ruling, but wants to paint itself as a positive force in the region.


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