Unfazed PH moves to stake claim over disputed seas

by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Mar 30 2014 04:06 PM | Updated as of Mar 31 2014 10:48 AM

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (L) stands next to Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza during a news conference in Manila March 30, 2014. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA -- Notwithstanding the recent actions of China, the Philippines proceeded to file its 4,000-page Memorial before a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea-backed (UNCLOS) arbitral tribunal insisting its claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“With firm conviction, the ultimate purpose of the memorial is our national interest. It’s about defining what is legitimately ours. It’s about securing our children’s future. It’s about guaranteeing the freedom of navigation. It’s about preserving our regional peace, security, and stability,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a press conference Sunday.

Once resolved, the decision is one that would provide a “just, durable solution grounded on international law,” he said.

The memorial, or the country’s written argument, is composed of 10 volumes and more than 4,000 pages, containing relevant evidence that ensures that “every claim is meritorious.”

“Volumes II through X contain the documentary evidence and maps that support the Philippines’ claims, all of which are cited in Volume I. Volumes II through X consist of more than 3,700 pages, including more than 40 maps, for a total submission of nearly 4,000 pages,” del Rosario said.

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who led the team that wrote the memorial, said it also includes the Philippines’ amended statement of claims that covers the Ayungin Shoal, which the Chinese Coast Guard continues to block until this very moment.

On Saturday afternoon, two Chinese Coast Guard vessels again tried to block a civilian ship used by the government to transport food and supplies to Filipino soldiers stationed there. But the Marines onboard the civilian vessel defied the orders from China not to enter the shoal.

“Similar to the other claims we’ve made, Ayungin is within our 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone,” Jardeleza said.

According to Del Rosario, the next step is for China to file its counter-memorial. “However, it is currently unknown whether China will appear in the case, or whether it will continue its present policy of abstaining from the proceedings. Under the Rules of Procedure, the Arbitral Tribunal will decide on next steps and advise the Parties,” he said.

Article 9 of Annex 7 of the UNCLOS 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.”

Jardeleza said he will not speculate on the timeframe as to when the arbitral tribunal will have a decision but said the country’s best hope is for a favorable ruling.

“A favorable ruling is a ruling that China, as a member of the community of nations, is bound legally to accept and implement,” he explained.