China rejects arbitration for sea dispute

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Feb 19 2013 07:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 20 2013 06:37 AM

MANILA - China has formally rejected the Philippines’ move to bring to an arbitral tribunal its claim over the West Philippine Sea, but the Department of Foreign (DFA) is not bothered.

In a statement, the DFA said: “China’s action will not interfere with the process of Arbitration initiated by the Philippines on 22 January 2013. The Arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China.”

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing sent a Note Verbale on Tuesday stating that China rejects and returns the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim. China said it has indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea as encompassed by its 9-dash line claim.

“The Philippines remains committed to Arbitration which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all,” the DFA said.

The nine-dash line theory takes about 90 percent of the whole area, which China calls the South China Sea in its territorial maps. The boundary has been published in Chinese annals since 1947.

DFA also said the soon-to-be-formed tribunal will check the domestic laws of China, which should be in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said UNCLOS, which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, will be the great “equalizer.”

Article 9 of Annex 7 provides that: “If one of the parties to the dispute does not appear before the arbitral tribunal or fails to defend its case, the other party may request the tribunal to continue the proceedings and to make its award. Absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings. Before making its award, the arbitral tribunal must satisfy itself not only that it has jurisdiction over the dispute but also that the claim is well founded in fact and law.”