TV5 screenshot of the Permanent Court of Arbitration when it conducted hearings in The Hague last July. It said Thursday that the tribunal on UNCLOS has ruled to admit the Philippine case against China, resolving the issue of jurisdiction over the latter’s objections.
MANILA – (UPDATE3, 1:51 a.m.) The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague said a UN panel had ruled Thursday (Oct. 29) that it has jurisdiction over the case filed by the Philippine government against China in the South China Sea, dealing Manila a victory in the first-round issue of admissibility.
An announcement by the PCA, which in July 2015 had held several hearings on the Philippines’ submissions, was shared by Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, Far Eastern University Law dean, who is in Europe for a conference.
“The Philippines v. China UNCLOS Annex VII Tribunal just issued its Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility. Won’t comment further except to say that this is a very big deal and I hope everyone reads it!” said the original FB post by Louie Liamzon that was shared by Sta. Maria, who is also TV5’s resident legal analyst.
The announcement, titled “TRIBUNAL RENDERS AWARD ON JURISDICTION AND ADMISSIBILITY; WILL HOLD FURTHER HEARINGS” and dated Oct. 29, said the “Tribunal has concluded that it is able to decide that it does have jurisdiction with respect to the matters raised in seven of the Philippines’ submissions,” but that it had asked Manila to clarify and narrow one submission.
The first part of the announcement said: “The Tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the arbitration instituted by the Republic of the Philippines against the People’s Republic of China has issued its award on jurisdiction and admissibility. This arbitration concerns the role of ‘historic rights’ and the source of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea; the status of certain features in the South China Sea and the maritime entitlements they are capable of generating; and the lawfulness of certain actions by China in the South China Sea that are alleged by the Philippines to violate the Convention,” referring to UNCLOS.
The UN tribunal’s decision on jurisdiction and admissibility comes amid renewed tension in the South China Sea, over the United States’ deployment of a guided-missile destroyer to the area, to conduct patrols that it claimed are in defense of the freedom of navigation. President Benigno Aquino III gave solid support for that position when he addressed the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines this week, saying no one could argue against the defense of freedom of navigation in sea lanes where 40 percent of world commerce passes.
Reuters reported that the Chinese and US navies were set to hold high-level talks Thursday over tension in the South China. US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, would hold an hour-long video teleconference on Thursday, a US official said.
The PCA press release explained the perimeters of the decision: “The Tribunal’s Award of today’s date is unanimous and concerns only whether the Tribunal has jurisdiction to consider the Philippines’ claims and whether such claims are admissible.
“The Award does not decide any aspect of the merits of the Parties’ dispute,” it added. “In its Award, the Tribunal has held that both the Philippines and China are parties to the Convention and bound by its provisions on the settlement of disputes.”
The Tribunal also held that “China’s decision not to participate in these proceedings does not deprive the Tribunal of jurisdiction and that the Philippines’ decision to commence arbitration unilaterally was not an abuse of the Convention’s dispute settlement procedures.”