PH team has high hopes of favorable UN ruling
Confident it has presented the best arguments against China’s incursions into its territory, the Philippines is hoping to return to The Hague.
Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said the country’s legal team to the hearings held earlier this month had ably presented the Philippines’ case before the United Nations arbitral tribunal in hopes of convincing the court that it has jurisdiction over the case.
“We believe we presented the best forms of the argument from our side. And so we hope that we will survive the jurisdictional phase and be able to return to The Hague,” Hilbay told reporters on Tuesday.
Hilbay led the Philippine delegation that faced the ad hoc arbitral tribunal in two hearings held in the Netherlands.
The hearings covered jurisdictional issues on the case. A favorable ruling for the Philippines would pave the way for proceedings on the merits of the legal action.
The Philippine case aims to nullify China’s so-called “nine-dash line” claim, which encroaches into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone within the South China Sea, an area Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea.
It also seeks to stop China’s occupation, reclamation and other intrusive activities within the area.
China has repeatedly refused to take part in the proceedings, asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the South China Sea. However, it released an extensive position paper last year, which the tribunal considered its plea.
“We are confident that we presented the best forms of the argument. How the arbitrators, how the members of the arbitral tribunal received them, we don’t know,” Hilbay said.
He added that the proceedings were private and that a disclosure of details was not allowed.
“But we believe, based on our understanding of the case, that we have presented, and the answers we have given are the best forms of argument possible,” he said.
With China’s nonparticipation, Hilbay said “there is a special burden on the Philippines and on the tribunal to ensure that the proceedings are fair and reasonable and that the tribunal will be able to come up with a just solution, notwithstanding the absence of the other party.”
Hilbay said the Philippines was on track toward submitting a supplemental pleading after the hearings and would meet the July 23 deadline.
The arbitral panel has required the Philippine side to file additional written responses on “some aspects of the case that weren’t fully articulated” in the pleadings the country submitted and in the answers the legal team gave during the hearings.
The chief solicitor also welcomed the attendance at the hearings of foreign observers from other claimant countries, like Malaysia and Vietnam, and neighboring Thailand, Indonesia and Japan.
“This is not really between the Philippines and China. This is both a regional and global concern,” Hilbay said. “Everyone is focused on this case. The presence of littoral states, coastal states and Japan is, we believe, a good sign for us.”
Japan, which has a separate unresolved dispute with China in the East China Sea, is a key Philippine ally in its quest for the resolution of the maritime dispute.
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