Manila, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said that it hoped that China would make an official response to the arbitration case it filed before a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), maintaining that the case would move forward should China refuse to do so.
‘‘We are hoping that by the deadline, they would be able to officially notify us and reply to our notification that we have submitted to them earlier,’’ Raul Hernandez, Assistant Secretary and DFA spokesperson, told reporters in a press briefing.
Invoking the Unclos, the Philippines haled China to the UN arbitral tribunal in hopes of compelling Beijing to respect Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf encompassing territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In its notification and statement of claim filed before the United Nations (UN) last month, the Philippines asked the UN to compel China to respect Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf encompassing territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying recent Chinese actions constituted an excessive exercise of sovereignty over disputed territories.
China, however, had yet to issue a formal reply but maintained that it has indisputable sovereignty over the area and that talks should only be on a bilateral basis with the countries directly involved.
Asked whether the case would move forward should China refuse to reply, Hernandez said “It will move forward…. then we will have to ask the President of ITLOS to form the arbitral panel.” The Philippines had earlier announced that it had appointed Judge Rudiger Wolfrum as a member of the arbitral panel.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Ocean Concerns Gilberto Asuque had eariler said that under the rules of the UNCLOS, the Philippines and China would each appoint a member to the tribunal, and the other three members would be appointed based on an agreement by the two parties.
Asuque, in an earlier press briefing, noted that under the rules, parties to the case have a total of 60 days for the formation of the arbitration panel.
“The other party to the dispute shall within 30 days of receipt of the notification referred to in Article 1 appoint one member to the panel. The other three members shall be appointed by an agreement between the parties,” Asuque said as he read the rules before the media.
“If within 60 days of receipt of notification the parties are unable to reach an agreement to the appointment of one or more members of the tribunal to be appointed by the agreement…then you have to go now to the President of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” Asuque said.
Japanese patrol boats
Asked about reports on Japan’s plans to donate patrol boats to the Philippines, Hernandez said that what he knew was that the country had officially submitted a request for 10 patrol boats from the Japanese government.
‘‘Hopefully, we will be able to have their answer as soon as possible,’’ adding that the request was made to ‘‘upgrade the equipment of our Philippine Coast Guard for it to be able to do its mandate to monitor our seas and to make sure that there will be no intrusions in our maritime zones.’’
Agence France Presse, in a report quoting the Nikkei business daily, had said that Japan plans to donate patrol boats costing $11 million each to the Philippines, adding that it plans to finance the deal in its fiscal 2013 budget.
Both countries are locked in separate territorial disputes with China.
Japan’s dispute is over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.
The Philippines is one of several Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, that are rowing with China over claims to parts of the South China Sea.
The long-running row over the islands intensified in September when Tokyo nationalized part of the chain, triggering fury in Beijing and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.
In the most serious high-seas incident yet, Japan last week said that a Chinese frigate locked its weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese navy vessel on January 30. China has angrily denied the charge. With reports from Agence France Presse