What Went Before: PH-China territorial dispute
After more than 17 years of fruitless bilateral consultations with China, the Philippines filed a motion for arbitration in a United Nations tribunal in January as it sought a peaceful solution to its territorial dispute with Beijing over territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
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, including parts within the West Philippine Sea, the waters within Manila’s 327-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
On Jan. 26, President Aquino, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, cited two separate incidents of Chinese harassment of Philippine fishing boats at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) off the coast of Zambales province.
China has rejected the UN proceedings, citing its “indisputable sovereignty” over the territory but the case has progressed despite Beijing’s refusal to participate in the arbitration.
In September, President Aquino canceled 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.
On July 11, nearly six months after the Philippines filed the complaint, the five-member tribunal tasked to deliberate the case met and drafted the rules of procedure to govern the proceedings.
On May 10, the Philippines protested the presence of a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, accompanied by patrol vessels at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef), which lies 196 km from Palawan province, well within the Philippine EEZ.
Ayungin Shoal is a strategic gateway to Reed Bank, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Beijing says the shoal is part of the Spratlys, a group of 250 islets spread over 427,350 square kilometers, claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.
Last year, from early April to mid-June, Chinese and Philippine ships faced off with each other at Panatag Shoal after Chinese vessels stopped the Philippine Navy from arresting alleged Chinese poachers.
There had been nearly 50 bilateral consultations between China and the Philippines from April 2012 when tensions rose between them over the disputed Panatag Shoal.—Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives
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