UN arbitral court sets 2nd round of hearings
Lawyers for the Philippines were preparing for a second round of oral arguments on Thursday after the UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague decided to ask more questions about the country’s suit against China over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, the Inquirer learned on Friday.
No details of the UN court’s decision were available at press time.
The Inquirer also learned that Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza and Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Benjamin Caguioa will remain in The Hague for the second round of arguments.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed yesterday that the arbitral tribunal called a second round of arguments on the question of jurisdiction for July 13.
She said the Philippine legal team was preparing for the second round.
“In the past two days, the Philippines presented its arguments to prove that the tribunal has jurisdiction over the matter and that there is no bar to the exercise of its jurisdiction,” said Valte, who is in The Hague.
Valte said the tribunal deliberated on Thursday the presentations made by the Philippines in its claims against China.
The Philippines told the arbitral tribunal in the first round of oral arguments that China has flouted international maritime laws, using so-called historic rights to claim nearly 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea.
The UN court will first have to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the complaint before it proceeds to hear the merits of the case.
Should the arbitral tribunal decide that it has no jurisdiction, the Philippines would have to rethink its strategy in protecting its rights in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recognized under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters within the EEZs of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
To stake its claim, China is building artificial islands at seven Philippine-claimed reefs in the heavily disputed Spratly archipelago.
Recent satellite images showed construction on one artificial island included port facilities, barracks and a 3,000-meter runway, indicating China plans to use the artificial islands for military purposes.
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