PH to press UN case on disputed sea despite China rejection

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DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez: We’ll proceed. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The arbitration proceedings that the Philippines has initiated before the United Nations (UN) against China to nullify the latter’s “excessive” claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will not stop despite Beijing’s rejection of the legal action, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

However, the enforcement of any decision of the UN arbitral tribunal, three or four years down the road, will be “another question,” said DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez.

“The arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the five-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” Hernandez said.

“Even if one party does not join or participate, the process will continue until a decision is made,” he said.

Article 9 of Unclos’ Annex VII, which stipulates the mechanics of arbitration, states that the “absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings.”

On Jan. 22, the Philippines went to the UN to challenge Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea (which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea) and compel it to respect the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and stop Chinese incursions into areas in the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines.

The Philippines initiated the compulsory proceedings against China as provided for under the Unclos, and asked the UN to declare the Chinese “nine-dash line” outlining its claim to most of the South China Sea, including waters and islands close to its neighbors, as invalid and illegal.

Formalizing earlier Chinese statements rejecting the Philippines’ arbitration bid, Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Tuesday returned the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim through a note verbale handed to the DFA.—With Michael Lim Ubac

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