MANILA, Philippines—The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) has named the last of the five-member panel that will hear the Philippines’ arbitration case against China over their dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). This after the original fifth panel member resigned last month.
Judge Shunji Yanai, president of Itlos, appointed Thomas Mensah of Ghana, a former Itlos judge, as the fifth member in the arbitral tribunal that will deliberate on the Philippines’ case against China over maritime boundaries in the West Philippine Sea.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said on Tuesday Itlos informed Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, head of the Philippine legal team handling the case, of Mensah’s appointment in a letter dated June 21.
Mensah, who was an Itlos member from 1996 to 2005, replaced Judge Chris Pinto of Sri Lanka, who resigned from the arbitration panel in May shortly after his appointment because his wife is Filipino.
“The country will present its case once the arbitral tribunal advises the Philippine legal team to meet on the procedures and schedules of hearing on the case,” said Hernandez in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Yanai appointed Itlos Judges Jean-Pierre Cot (France) and Alfred Soons (the Netherlands) in April and Stanislaw Pawlak (Poland) in March to join Judge Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany whom the Philippines nominated after it filed the arbitration case on Jan. 22.
The Philippines decided to take the legal action against China after exhausting all other means to peacefully settle their disputes in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea which Beijing claims is part of its historical sovereign territory.
The Philippines is seeking to halt Chinese incursions into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea and to invalidate China’s nine-dash line claim to the waters, which the Philippines has repeatedly described as an “excessive declaration” of maritime territory.
China refused to participate in the proceedings from the outset, asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over most of the South China Sea.