Cabinet to meet after arbitral court rules on sea dispute

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2016 03:27 PM

MANILA - The Cabinet will meet Tuesday after an arbitral tribunal releases its decision on the Philippine case against China over conflicting maritime claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to discuss with the Cabinet the decision and that "the top priority will be national interest" in considering the government's next steps.

"Everything will be subject to a discussion. Everything will have to be subject to a discussion. After all, it's going to be a lengthy decision and there will be a number of details that need to be properly threshed out before any statement, any decision is made publicly," Abella said.

Abella said the foreign affairs secretary "will be the sole spokesperson regarding the matter" and is expected to issue a statement following the announcement of the court decision.

China has boycotted the hearings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, saying it does not have jurisdiction to decide on the matter.

Even if Beijing ignores the decision, it is significant as it will be the first time that a legal challenge has been brought in the dispute, which draws in five countries with overlapping claims to some of the world's most promising oil and gas fields and vital fishing grounds.

It reflects the shifting balance of power in the 3.5 million square kilometer sea, where China has been expanding its presence by building artificial islands and dispatching patrol boats that keep Philippine fishing vessels away.

The case, brought by the Philippines in 2013, hinges on the legal status of reefs, rocks and artificial islands in the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Island Group. - With Reuters

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