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PHL to take Panatag Shoal dispute with China to international court


(Updated 9:24 p.m.) The Philippines will seek international arbitration to settle its territorial dispute with China over the Panatag Shoal, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Tuesday.   In a statement, Del Rosario invited Chinese officials to join the Philippines in bringing the issue to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
Palace backs DFA's position to bring Panatag issue to ITLOS

Malacañang on Tuesday backed the Department of Foreign Affairs' decision to seek international arbitration to resolve the territorial dispute with China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. “We support the DFA’s position to bring the Panatag incident before the ITLOS (International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea) as part of our country’s diplomatic solution to the standoff,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a text message to reporters. She added that “it is in the best interest of all concerned to settle the issue through diplomatic means.” The ITLOS is an intergovernmental organization that settles territorial disputes between countries. DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines will bring the issue to the international court “to ascertain which of us (China and Philippines) has sovereign rights over the waters surrounding the Scarborough Shoal.” The Panatag Shoal is a triangle of small islands in the West Philippine Sea circling a lagoon of 150 square kilometers. It is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, which is mandated by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Although both the Philippines and China are signatories to the UNCLOS, China continues to claim ownership of the shoal, saying it was first discovered in the 13th century during the Yuan Dynasty. — Amita Legaspi/RSJ, GMA News
“The whole world knows that China has myriad more ships and aircraft than the Philippines. At day’s end, however, we hope to demonstrate that international law would be the great equalizer,” he said.   According to US Congressional Research Service data, China’s People’s Liberation Army had more than 386 ships in service as of 2009, including three ballistic missile submarines, 59 attack submarines, 26 destroyers and 48 frigates.   The data, dated March 23, 2012, was prepared by a naval affairs specialist.      ITLOS is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention.   The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members, elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.   The Philippines will bring the issue to the international court “to ascertain which of us has sovereign rights over the waters surrounding the Scarborough Shoal,” according to the Philippine Foreign Affairs secretary, referring to Panatag by its international name.   The Chinese call it Huangyan Island.   Panatag Shoal is a triangle of small islands in the West Philippine Sea, surrounding a 150-square-kilometer lagoon within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as spelled out by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).   Although China and the Philippines are signatories to the UNCLOS, China continues to claim ownership of the shoal, saying it was first discovered in the 13th century during the Yuan Dynasty.   Last year, the Philippines also brought the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands to the ITLOS.   Supposedly rich in oil and gas deposits, the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea are being claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.   The latest high profile dispute between China and the Philippines started on April 8 when the Philippine Navy caught eight Chinese fishing boats allegedly poaching marine life at Panatag Shoal.   But before the alleged poachers and their boats could be detained, two Chinese marine vessels maneuvered in the area and blocked the Philippine Navy’s Hamilton class BRP Gregorio del Pilar from further approaching the fishing boats laden with their catch.   The Philippines had since ordered the Del Pilar out of the area to diffuse tensions and replaced it with a Coast Guard search and rescue boat.   In the ensuing standoff and diplomatic negotiations between China and the Philippines, the eight Chinese fishing vessels were able to slip away in batches and headed back to China.   On Monday, more than 4,000 American troops joined Filipino soldiers for the annual military exercises Balikatan, 628 kms south of Panatag Shoal. —KBK/VS/ELR/HS, GMA News
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