Palace welcomes The Hague court ruling on WPS issue

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 30 (PNA) – Malacanang on Friday welcomed the ruling of the The Hague-based international Arbitral Tribunal which unanimously ruled that it has jurisdiction over the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

”We welcome the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal on jurisdiction allowing the Philippines to present its claims on the merits,” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma said in a press briefing.

With its decision in favor of the Philippines’ complaint, the tribunal will reportedly hold further hearings to settle the territorial dispute in the WPS.

According to nine-page release, the Permanent Court of the Arbitration said: “The Tribunal’s Award of today’s date is unanimous and concerns only whether the Tribunal has jurisdiction to consider the Philippines’ claims and whether such claims are admissible. The Award does not decide any aspect of the merits of the Parties’ dispute. In its Award, the Tribunal has held that both the Philippines and China are parties to the Convention and bound by its provisions on the settlement of disputes. The Tribunal has also held that China’s decision not to participate in these proceedings does not deprive the Tribunal of jurisdiction and that the Philippines’ decision to commence arbitration unilaterally was not an abuse of the Convention’s dispute settlement procedures.”

The tribunal reportedly expects to “render its Award on the merits and remaining jurisdictional issues in 2016.”

Based on its submitted documents to the Arbitral Tribunal, the Philippines is seeking to stop China’s incursions in the disputed WPS or South China Sea, calling China’s nine-dash line claim over the disputed territory “excessive.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of the Solicitor General, which represents the Philippines, also welcomed the ruling of the international Arbitral Tribunal.

”The decision of the Arbitral Tribunal on the jurisdiction would give way for the proper expression on the merits that have become the basis of the Philippines’ position on the issue,” Coloma said.

Coloma said the ruling on the jurisdiction paves the way for the furtherance of the proceedings to evaluate the merits of the Philippines’ position on the disputed territory.

”We will await further advice from the Tribunal,” Coloma said.

Regarding the presence of the US patrol ships in the WPS, Coloma said the basic position of the Philippines “is to promote the freedom of navigation recognizing that the South China Sea or WPS is one of the most important arteries for global commerce.”

”We have always maintained that all disputes pertaining to maritime entitlements in body of water will have to be resolved peacefully in accordance with the rules such as those contained in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the PCOO chief added. (PNA)