Inquirer Briefing Paper: The Philippines vs. China case
JAN. 22, 2013. After more than 17 years of fruitless bilateral consultations with China, the Philippines files a motion for arbitration in a UN tribunal to challenge Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea and compel it to respect the Philippines’ right to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea and stop Chinese incursions into those waters.
In its submission, the Philippines asked for the nullification of China’s so-called “nine-dash-line” claim, which encompasses almost all of the South China Sea, including parts within the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines initiated the compulsory proceedings against China as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and asked the arbitral court 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, invalid and illegal.
It demands that China “desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 Unclos.”
Both countries are signatories to the 1982 treaty.
The arbitration will be held at an overseas location to be agreed by the two parties.
According to Unclos provisions on arbitration, the adversaries are entitled to nominate their representatives to the five-member arbitration panel, to be “drawn up and maintained” by the UN secretary general.
The Philippines appoints Judge Rudiger Wolfrum, a German international law expert and justice on the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, as a member of the panel.
Feb. 19, 2013. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei says China rejects the Philippines’ attempt to seek international arbitration. On the same day, Ma Keqing, China’s ambassador to Manila, returns the Philippines’ notification through a note verbale handed to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
July 11, 2013. Nearly six months after the Philippines filed the complaint, the five-member tribunal tasked to deliberate the case meets and drafts the rules of procedure to govern the proceedings.
Aug. 1, 2013. Through a note verbale addressed to the tribunal, China rejects the proceedings, reiterating “it does not accept the arbitration initiated by the Philippines.” The tribunal says proceedings will continue even with only one party participating, in accordance with the provisions of the Unclos.
Aug. 27, 2013. The tribunal, currently holding court in The Hague in The Netherlands, directs the Philippines to submit by March 30, 2014, a memorandum—called “memorial” in international law—detailing the merits of its case and its position on the panel’s jurisdiction over the case.
Sept. 2, 2013. President Aquino cancels a planned trip to China for a trade fair in Nanning after Beijing reportedly required the withdrawal of the arbitration case as a condition for the trip.
March 30, 2014. Despite threats from China, the government files as scheduled the Philippines’ 4,000-page memorial or formal pleading to the UN arbitral tribunal, which will enable the court to study Manila’s argument that the Chinese claim covers parts of Philippine territory.
April 2015. The tribunal acknowledges China’s objections and announces that a hearing on jurisdiction will be held first before the court proceeds to hear the merits of the case.
June 9, 2015. The Inquirer reports that the government will submit a 300-year-old map of the Philippines to the tribunal to support its petition to nullify China’s claim to Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.
Published in Manila by the Jesuit friar Pedro Murillo Velarde in 1734, the map shows Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), off the coast of Zambales province, as part of the Philippines.
China seized Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, after a two-month standoff between Chinese and Philippine Coast Guard vessels in 2012.
July 7, 2015. Oral arguments to determine whether the UN tribunal has jurisdiction over the complaint begin. The Philippine case is argued by Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, assisted by American lawyer Paul Reichler.
July 10, 2015. The Philippines prepares for a second round of oral arguments after the arbitral tribunal decided to ask more questions about the country’s suit against China over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The Inquirer learns that aside from Hilbay, Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza and Presidential chief legal counsel Benjamin Caguioa will remain in The Hague for the second round of arguments.
July 13, 2015. The second round of oral arguments in The Hague takes place. In the first round of oral arguments the week before, the Philippine legal team told the court that China was violating Unclos by depriving the Philippines of its right to fish and explore resources within its own EEZ.
The team also made it clear to the court that the Philippines was not asking the tribunal to rule on the sovereignty aspects of the case but only on the entitlements of the claimants to territory in the South China Sea as recognized under Unclos.
The question of sovereignty is a matter for the International Court of Justice to decide.
Oct. 29, 2015. The UN arbitral tribunal unanimously decides it has jurisdiction over the dispute between China and the Philippines. This means that the tribunal will hold further hearings to settle the dispute.
Nov. 24 – 30, 2015. Four days of hearings were convened to discuss the merits of the case. The Philippines presented its arguments before the arbitral tribunal while the judges asked questions to clarify the Philippines claims.
Due to China’s absence in the proceedings, they were not able to present their counter-arguments.
Jun. 29, 2016. The Tribunal announced that they have set July 12, 2016 as the date when they will issue their Award or decision on the arbitration case.
Source: Inquirer Archives, Inquirer Research
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