Philippines takes China to UN over sea row-A A +A
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The government finally made true to its long-standing position to resolve the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) by seeking international arbitration to declare China’s moves in the potentially oil-rich waters “unlawful.”
In a press conference Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario announced that the government has summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing and handed her a note notifying the Chinese Government that the Philippines is bringing the countries' conflicting claims to the United Nations (UN) Arbitral Tribunal, which is operating under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
"This afternoon, the Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an Arbitral Tribunal under Article 287 and Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS)," said del Rosario.
He added that the Philippines has always asserted that international law, including Unclos, will be “the great equalizer in resolving this dispute over the West Philippine Sea.”
Six governments have overlapping claims across the vast South China Sea, with China claiming it has sovereignty over virtually all of it. Chinese paramilitary ships confronted Philippine vessels last year in a monthslong standoff over a shoal that both countries claim.
There are fears that territorial conflicts in the region, including a dispute between Japan and China in the East China Sea, could spark Asia's next armed conflict.
But Del Rosario said Tuesday that the move came as part of President Benigno Aquino III’s directive to gun for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with international law.
He said it also comes after the government has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China.
"On numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the Philippines has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle these disputes. To this day, a solution is still elusive. We hope that the Arbitral Proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution," he said.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), it is using several grounds to advance its claim to the disputed territory, including the Philippines' assertion 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.
Other reasons include that within the maritime area encompassed by the nine-dash line, China has 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.
The Philippines also alleged that 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
It also pointed that 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.
In its move, the DFA said the Philippines is asking the Arbitral Tribunal to declare 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 Unclos, to an EEZ under Part V, and to a Continental Shelf under Part VI.
It is also asking that it declare that China's maritime claims in the SCS based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to Unclos and invalid; require China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under Unclos; and require China to desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea.
Del Rosario said that despite the legal turn of the country, it will still move to exert all efforts to move forward and enhance its relations with China on the basis of mutual respect.
He said Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza shall be the agent or legal representative for the Philippines in this Arbitral Proceedings, while the lead counsel of the country will be Paul Reichler of Foley and Hoag LLP. (HDT/With AP/Sunnex)