Intl court begins hearing on PHL case debunking China’s massive sea claim

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Nov. 24 (PNA) — The Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration will start its one-week hearing Tuesday on the Philippines’ case challenging China’s enormous claim on disputed South China Sea territories.

Oral Hearing on the merits of the Philippines-China arbitration case under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will be held until November 30 at Peace Palace in The Hague, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The hearing is being held after the tribunal on Oct. 30 announced that it has jurisdiction over the Philippines’ complaint, debunking China’s argument that the case is beyond the scope of the court’s mandate. China does not recognize Manila’s case.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the court proceedings will start at 2:30 p.m. Netherlands time (9:30 p.m. in Manila).

“After the court’s decision declaring jurisdiction on our case, this is the second round. They will not proceed to tackling the merits of our case,” Jose said.

The tribunal earlier said it has immediate jurisdiction on seven out of 15 points raised by Manila against China, called “submissions” in legal parlance, but postponed for “later consideration” its jurisdiction ruling on eight other issues raised by Manila, saying it will be decided on as it conducts the formal hearing on the merits of the case.

“We are confident. The court did not reject the 15 issues we raised against China. They said they have immediate jurisdiction on seven claims that we submitted and the others would be determined at the course of the hearing,” Jose said.

“It is important that we clarify China’s nine-dash lime claim and if it’s in accordance to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and also to clarify China’s assertion of indisputable sovereignty based on historic rights,” he added.

The Philippines’ case is anchored on the 1982 convention which allows coastal states the right to manage, explore and exploit areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

China says it owns about 90 percent of the South China Sea and the cluster of islands, reefs and atolls, called the Spratlys.

The Philippines has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for parts of the waters that fall under its exclusive economic zone as allowed by the UNCLOS.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the waters, which is a major shipping lane and home to vast oil and mineral deposits.

All claimants have stationed military troops in their territories in the vast sea, said to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits, except for Brunei. (PNA)