UN arbitral panel may soon decide on jurisdictional issues in PH case vs China
MANILA, Philippines—The United Nations arbitral tribunal may soon rule on whether it has jurisdiction over the Philippines’ arbitration case seeking to invalidate China’s nine-dash line claim to almost all of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has said the five-member ad hoc body may decide whether or not it has jurisdiction over the case in “maybe one or two weeks” as the Philippines pursues the legal action as a “last resort” to clarify maritime boundaries with China in the contested waters.
“I think it’s moving forward,” said Del Rosario on the sidelines of the commemoration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) 46th Anniversary Wednesday night.
He said the body, currently holding court at the Hague, has been looking into the question of jurisdiction and may release a ruling “hopefully soon.” The panel held its first session on July 11.
Filed in January, Manila’s legal action seeks to nullify China’s nine-dash line claim and to halt its incursions into the country’s established maritime domain. The proceedings continue despite China’s refusal to participate, asserting “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters.
The Philippines made the move, hoping that China would sit down with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to finalize the long-delayed Code of Conduct (COC) that would enforce legally binding guidelines on discipline among claimant nations.
The COC is envisioned as an upgrade of the “watered down” Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Del Rosario is set to fly to Thailand next week for Asean’s preparatory meetings on the COC talks. The meeting will be held Wednesday, ahead of consultations on the COC between the Asean and China in Beijing next month.
“I think there’s full consensus on the part of the Asean, and it has always been our hope that we would have China on board in terms of a full and effective implementation of the DOC for one and moving on to, as I said, an expeditious conclusion of the COC,” said Del Rosario.
After meeting Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in Manila last week, Del Rosario said the Philippines and Vietnam have agreed to convince the Asean to prod China to proceed to negotiations, instead of mere consultations, on the COC.
Apart from the Philippines and Vietnam, two other Asean countries—Malaysia and Brunei—have partial claims to potentially rich territories in the West Philippine Sea.
During a visit in Vietnam on Monday however, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China would be in “no rush” to conclude the COC as he called out certain countries for having “unrealistic expectations” over the talks and for disturbing the process.
Responding to this, Del Rosario reiterated the Philippines’ position reminding China of the “core issue,” its nine-dash line claim. The Philippines believes this delineation is “expansive, excessive and in gross violation of international law.”
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