PH argues environmental, fishing claims vs China
After an “impassioned plea” from the foreign affairs secretary, the American lawyers of the Philippine government argued on Wednesday before the United Nations arbitral tribunal in The Hague the strength of the country’s environmental and fishing claims in the South China Sea.
During the first day of oral arguments Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario accused China of violating international law by seizing territories in South China Sea “with overwhelming force.”
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the second session focused on the country’s arguments against China that did not involve territorial disputes.
“Professor Alan Boyle presented to the tribunal arguments regarding the strength of the Philippines’ environmental and fishing claims against China” she said.
In addition to China’s claim on islands and maritime features within the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of its neighboring countries, it has also been accused of adversely affecting the environment and fishing communities with its massive reclamations in the environmentally sensitive area.
Environmental group Kalikasan PNE has called Chinese reclamation activities as an “ecological time bomb” that has been “wreaking havoc to the region’s marine ecology.”
In his speech, Del Rosario said, “China has irreversibly damaged the regional marine environment, in breach of UNCLOS, by its destruction of coral reefs in the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ EEZ, by its destructive and hazardous fishing practices, and by its harvesting of endangered species.”
Malacañang has sent a team to represent the country in the arbitral tribunal, which will decide whether China’s nine-dash line claim is valid. China claims about 90 percent of South China Sea amid overlapping claims by other Asian countries. It has also refused to participate in the proceedings and instead continued to build artificial islands.
“For the continuation of the First Round of Arguments, the Philippines’ lawyers further explained to the Arbitral Tribunal how the case does not constitute specific exemptions under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which would preclude the tribunal from exercising jurisdiction over the case,” Valte said.
She said Philippe Sands, part of the Philippine legal team and professor from Matrix Chambers in London, answered questions raised the day before while Advocates Lawrence H. Martin, Professor Bernard H. Oxman and Paul S. Reichler “took turns presenting arguments involving various points on why the Philippines’ claims fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the tribunal.”
“Professor Philippe Sands closed the First Round of Arguments by summarizing the submissions of the Philippines presented in the course of the hearings,” Valte added.