MANILA – The Philippine delegation to the United Nations tribunal hearing the Southeast Asian nation's case against China called the latter's South China Sea nine-dash line claim ''hopeless and indefensible."
Deputy President Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Philippine delegation centered its arguments during the second day of the hearing on how China's actions prevent the Philippines from exploring its living and non-living resources in the contested waters.
In a bulletin for the November 25 hearing sent on Thursday (Manila time), Valte quoted counsel lawyer Andrew Loewenstein as saying that none of the three conditions to establish historic rights is present in China's case, making its claim "hopeless and indefensible."
The arbitral tribunal is now hearing the merits of the case lodged by the Philippines against China after ruling that it has jurisdiction over it.
This angered China, which has rapidly built artificial islands over South China Sea reefs it has control. China says it has finished its reclamation activities and is now in the process of building structures on it.
China continues to snub the proceedings at The Hague, saying the proper way to address the dispute is through bilateral talks. It has called the proceedings ''a political provocation.''
During the second day of the hearing, Professor Philippe Sands argued that China cannot claim sovereignty over the reefs it controls such as Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, Subi Reef, Mckennan Reef and Gaven Reef.
He said these reefs are all low-tide elevations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and as such, cannot generate its own territorial sea, exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.
''Sands also presented to the Tribunal the construction activities on these features done by China, and asserted that these changes cannot be the basis of additional maritime entitlements,'' Valte said.
Another counsel of the Philippine delegation, Lawrence Martin, said China's reclamation and construction activities would not grant China maritime entitlements.
He also noted that for a feature to be considered an island, it must be able to sustain human habitation.
In the afternoon session, the Philippines' lead counsel Paul Reichler argued that no civilian settlements were ever established on the features in the Spratly Islands.
Sands, meanwhile, discussed China's moves to prevent the Philippines from exploring its living and non-living resources within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Sands cited an incident where private companies were prevented by China from conducting exploration in the Philippines' EEZ.
China's harassment of Filipino fishermen was also brought up before the tribunal.
''Martin presented various testimonies of Filipino fishermen to prove China's interference in the traditional fishing activities of Filipino fishermen around the South China Sea, particularly in Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal,'' Valte said, referring to the marine resources-rich shoal seized by China from the Philippines following a standoff in 2012.
The delegation also presented a 1784 map which shows that Bajo de Masinloc has always been part of the Philippines.
Loewenstein closed the afternoon session by presenting satellite images of various installations constructed by China on the artificial islands.
''A video simulation was also shown to the Tribunal to demonstrate how a cutter suction dredger destroys the sea bed and transfers sand to a pre-selected area, a machine used by China in its construction activities,'' Valte said.
Valte quoted Loewenstein as saying that China's reclamation works violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines with regard to living and non-living resources in its EEZ and continental shelf.
RULING IN SIX MONTHS
Philippine officials are hopeful the international tribunal will come out with a favorable ruling on the country's case against China within six months.
Experts say a ruling could influence other parties in the heated South China Sea dispute - involving Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and other countries. Indonesia has signaled it may also go to the court to counter an increasingly-assertive China that has heightened tension in the region.
The Philippines will make submissions on 15 claims during the proceedings. China has said the legal challenge could delay a negotiated settlement between the two countries.
Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia will also observe the pleadings, which will run until November 30 in private. A final ruling is expected in mid-2016.
The United States, traditionally the region's dominant security player, also objects to China's moves, sending military aircraft to survey China's development activities.
Court rulings are supposed to be binding on its member countries, which include China. But the tribunal, set up in 1899 as one of the first international judicial institutions, has no powers of enforcement and its rulings have been ignored before.
The Philippines' case is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - a pact that does not cover matters of sovereignty, but outlines a system of territory and economic zones that can be claimed from features such as islands, rocks and reefs.
philippines, arbitral tribunal, south china sea, abigail valte, paul reichler, china, sea dispute, spratly islands