MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) is studying international and local maritime laws in an effort to find a way for the Philippines to bring China to legal arbitration without the latter's consent as needed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Speaking to reporters, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said President Benigno Aquino asked the DOJ and other agencies to review maritime laws in the wake of the ongoing dispute between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
"We have to study if pwede sila dalhin sa international tribunal without their consent. Kailangan pag-aralan ng husto ang UNCLOS. Kailangan din pag-aralan ang domestic laws like the Anti-Poaching Law. Sapat na ba iyun, kailan ba papasok ang poaching or illegal fishing -- within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone o yung sa domestic waters ba... 12 nautical miles o 200 nautical miles ba," de Lima said.
"Also, environmental laws lalo na kapag kinukuha nila ay endangered specias," she added.
The Phillipines and China both claim Scarborough Shoal, which is located 124 nautical miles (220 kilometers) west of Zambales province and 500 nautical miles away from China.
During a visit to Oriental Mindoro, President Aquino said the DOJ and other departments are reviewing the basis of all the "rules, regulations and laws" applicable to the impasse.
De Lima said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is involved in the review.
The justice chief said the best way to win the dispute is through the "legal arena."
Let's go to ITLOS: DFA
In a note verbale sent to the Chinese embassy last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) formally invited Beijing to join Manila in bringing the dispute over Scarborough Shoal to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany.
China has yet to respond to the diplomatic communication.
There are also suggestions to bring the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
China, however, earlier said its claim over the shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, has legal basis and that its decision not to bring the dispute to the Itlos was final.
Beijing called on Manila to "fully respect China's sovereignty."