Manila takes S. China Sea fight to court-A A +A
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
MANILA -- The Philippine foreign secretary said on Tuesday that the Philippine Government is formally challenging China's claims to disputed South China Sea territories at an international court.
In a press briefing, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has summoned China's ambassador to Philippines, H.E. Ma Keqing that Manila is seeking arbitration, a move that China has opposed.
Keqing was handed a Note Verbale by Assistant Teresa Lazaro.
Del Rosario reiterated that Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an Arbitral Tribunal under article 287 and Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The Note Verbale, he said, contains the Notification and Statement of Claim that challenges before the Arbitral Tribunal the validity of China's nine-dash line claims to almost the entire South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea and to the desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 Unclos.
Del Rosario cited important points in the Notification and Statement of Claim.
1. The Philippines asserts that China’s so-called nine-dash line claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea is contrary to Unclos and thus unlawful.
2. Within the maritime area encompassed by the nine-dash line, China has also laid claim to, occupied and built structures on certain submerged banks, reefs and low tide elevations that do not qualify as islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of the Philippine continental shelf, or the international seabed. In addition, China has occupied certain small, uninhabitable coral projections that are barely above water at high tide, and which are “rocks” under Article 121 (3) of Unclos.
3. China has interfered with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its rights within its legitimate maritime zones, as well as to the aforementioned features and their surrounding waters.
4. The Philippines is conscious of China’s Declaration of August 25, 2008 under Article 298 of Unclos (regarding optional exceptions to the compulsory proceedings), and has avoided raising subjects or making claims that China has, by virtue of that Declaration, excluded from arbitral jurisdiction.
The statement added that the Philippines is requesting the Arbitral Tribunal to issue an Award that: Declares that China’s rights in regard to maritime areas in the South China Sea, like the rights of the Philippines, are those that are established by Unclos, and consist of its rights to a Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone under Part II of Unlclos, to an EEZ under Part V, and to a Continental Shelf under Part VI; Declares that China’s maritime claims in the SCS based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to Unclos and invalid; Requires China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS; and Requires that China desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea.
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea and has confronted Philippine ships in a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, which both countries claim. The Philippines withdrew ships from the shoal last June 2012 and has since protested China's buildup.
Del Rosario says the Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of maritime disputes with China, and hopes that the arbitral proceedings will bring results. (AP/PR)