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ITLOS completes five-man tribunal that will hear PHL case vs. China

April 25, 2013 4:38pm
The Philippines’ case against China took another step forward after a United Nations arbitration body named the last three judges in the five-man tribunal that will hear Manila’s complaint over what it calls Beijing’s “excessive” claim to the South China Sea.

“We are hoping that this case that we filed with the tribunal will proceed as soon as possible,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing Thursday.

International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) President Shunji Yanai on April 24 transmitted a letter to Philippine Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, head of the Philippine legal team on the arbitration case, informing Manila of the appointment of Mr. Jean-Pierre Cot (France), Mr. Chris Pinto (Sri Lanka), and Mr. Alfred Soons (The Netherlands.)

Yanai earlier appointed Mr. Stanislaw Pawlak (Poland) as the second member of the tribunal who will represent China in the proceedings. The Philippines, on the other hand, nominated Mr. Rudiger Wolfrum (Germany) to the tribunal.

Illegal

Manila took a bold step when it initiated an arbitration process under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on January 21 to try to declare as “illegal” China’s nine-dash claim, which covers nearly the entire resource-rich waters, where some parts are called West Philippine Sea by the Philippines.

China has resisted the Philippines’ move to let a U.N. body intervene in the disputes, saying the case was legally infirm and carried unacceptable allegations.

China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have overlapping claims on the islands, shoals and reefs in the South China Sea, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

Hernandez said the five-member arbitral tribunal will first determine if they have jurisdiction over the Philippine case before an actual hearing takes place.

The Philippine government, he said, is “very confident” that the case will be taken up by the tribunal and that the country will be awarded its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

“The nine-dash claim of China has no validity as far as the international law, particularly the UNCLOS, is concerned” Hernandez said.    

UNCLOS

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. It also allows member-states to seek legal remedy on territorial disputes through mediation.

The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty.

Manila insisted that arbitration is “a peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement pursuant to international law.”

China, which frowns upon efforts to involve a third party in the disputes, prefers to negotiate one on one with other claimants which would give it advantage because of its sheer size compared to rival claimants which are smaller and have less military force. — KBK, GMA News
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