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PHL to submit pleading on sea dispute with China before UN tribunal in 2014

The Philippines will submit to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal next year a formal statement regarding China’s claim of sovereignty over territories in the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario said Tuesday.

Del Rosario said the Philippines will file its Memorial—or written pleading—before the Netherlands-based tribunal despite China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration proceedings that formally began last July.

“[Regarding] the status of the arbitration, the Arbitral Tribunal has adopted the rules of procedure and decided that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague shall act as the Registry in the proceedings. Again, China refused to participate in the proceedings… The Philippines will submit its Memorial by 30 March 2014,” del Rosario said in a lecture held at the Ateneo de Manila University.

The Foreign Affairs secretary gave a public lecture after being awarded the 2013 Metrobank Professorial Chair for Public Service and Governance.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez earlier said that proceedings at the Arbitral Tribunal will carry on with or without China’s response.

Del Rosario said the tribunal’s decision will be legally binding on all parties and will not be appealable.

The Philippines sought arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) last January to try to declare as “illegal” China’s nine-dash claim, which covers almost all of the South China Sea, including sections that have been declared as the West Philippine Sea.

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

Del Rosario said arbitration is the Philippines’ “last resort” to resolve its long-standing territorial dispute with China after political and diplomatic solutions have failed.

He said arbitration is an “open, friendly, and durable solution” that will benefit all the parties involved in the territorial feud.

“For China, arbitration will define and clarify its maritime entitlements. For the Philippines, arbitration will clarify what is ours, specifically our fishing rights, rights to resources and rights to enforce laws within our Exclusive Economic Zone. For the rest of the international community, the clarification of maritime entitlements will assure peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” he said.

Despite the ongoing tension, del Rosario said the Philippines continues to maintain a healthy and “mutually beneficial” relationship with China.

“Our dispute in the West Philippine sea is not the sum total of our relations,” he said. — KBK, GMA News