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


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