Palace scores China's basis for rejecting arbitration

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2014 12:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2014 08:23 PM

MANILA - Malacanang won't buy Beijing's reported basis for rejecting the arbitration proceedings the Philippines filed before an international tribunal.

Sought for comment, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda dismissed a report of the official Xinhua news agency that said China's repeated rejection of Manila' s plea for arbitration in the dispute in the South China Sea "is by no means defiance of the tribunal in The Hague. On the contrary, it shows China's respect for international law."

Lacierda said the Philippines' arbitration case "has nothing to do with determining sovereignty over land features in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. Nor has it anything to do with delimiting or delineating maritime boundaries."

"Our case is about asking the arbitral tribunal to rule on the validity of China's 9-dash claim, which in our view is expansive, excessive and without basis under international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," he said.

"Our case is about asking the arbitral tribunal to validate or affirm our maritime entitlements, i.e., 12 nautical miles territorial sea, 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and 200 nautical miles continental shelf, as provided for under UNCLOS."

The Philippines has filed a case against China over the disputed South China Sea at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

Manila wants the tribunal to confirm its right to exploit the waters in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as allowed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China has refused to participate in the arbitration process.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration last week asked China to submit evidence on its territorial claims in the South China Sea within six months for a procedural review of the suit filed by the Philippines.

The report said the tribunal, set up under UNCLOS, has no jurisdictional power over the territorial and maritime disputes in the region.

Though a UNCLOS signatory, in 2006 China filed a formal declaration that invoked the opt-out clause of Article 298 of the convention. That, according to the rules of convention, entitled China to reject arbitration in disputes concerning boundaries, historic titles, or military activity.

The Xinhua article earlier said the Philippines' arbitration request is more of a "political farce than a legally meaningful act."

"The sole reason why the Philippines submitted the dispute to an irrelevant third party is that it wants to further complicate the situation and make its dispute more of an international issue.”

"What's more problematical is that the Philippine arbitration request seeks a declaration that the nine-dash line China bases its territorial sovereignty on is inconsistent with the UN maritime convention. The line, declared by the Chinese government in as early as 1947 and clearly marked in historical documents, obviously concerns a matter of sovereignty and is not governed by UNCLOS."

It said the correct way to ease the tension in the South China Sea has long been articulated since 2002 in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.