Philippines prepared for China backlash: Palace

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 28 2014 07:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2014 08:27 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacanang is prepared for the any actions from China after the government files the Philippine memorial on the arbitration case on the West Philippine Sea before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

This was the Palace's reaction following reports China will impose sanctions on the Philippines if it files the memorial.

"It would be best to ask China what their intended plans are moving forward. But at least for the Philippine government, we can say that all factors have been taken into consideration when the discussions were being had on the matter of arbitration," Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Friday.

The memorial will contain the Philippine position on the matter of the China's "nine-dash line" claim that covers all of the West Philippine Sea.

Valte said a favorable ruling from the ITLOS will add weight to the Philippine position.

It was her response to a question on how a favorable ruling may help the country when the ITLOS has no powers to enforce its ruling.

"Assuming that a favorable decision is rendered, then that is additional weight for the Philippine position when it comes because that is a tribunal that is empowered really to pass judgment on these things based on international law, which is upheld by most countries that subscribed to it," she said.

Manila is to file as scheduled its "memorial," or formal pleading on Sunday, which would allow the UN arbitral tribunal to study the Philippine argument that the Chinese claim covers parts of Philippine territory, officials said.

China claims most of the strategically important body of water as well as islets and reefs which border major sea lanes and are reputed to sit on vast oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines, whose forces are dwarfed by its giant neighbor in an increasingly tense stand-off over some reefs and shoals, sought UN arbitration in January 2012 to settle the dispute, but China has rejected the move.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned the Philippines on Wednesday against proceeding with the UN case.

"China will never accept nor participate in the international arbitration unilaterally initiated and pushed by the Philippines, and China's position has a solid basis in international law," Hong told a news conference in Beijing.

"We hope that the Philippine side... returns to the right track of resolving the dispute through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible, (and) stops going any further down the wrong track so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations."

The Philippine case alleges that Chinese claims to areas of the West Philippine Sea and its seabed cover areas as far as 870 nautical miles (1,611 kilometers) from the nearest Chinese coast, and are thus illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Both countries are signatories to the 1982 treaty.

In the latest hostile encounter between the two, Chinese coastguard ships this month blocked two Filipino-flagged vessels headed for Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly group, around 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan.

The Philippines said the vessels were bringing supplies to Filipino marines aboard a decrepit navy ship that it beached on the shoal in 1999.

The Philippine has also accused China of firing water cannon at Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal, another South China Sea outcrop. - with a report from Agence France-Presse