Arbitral Tribunal told: China’s claims over West Philippine Sea deprives PH of fishing rights

MANILA, Nov. 27 -- The Philippines discussed its deprivation of fishing and exploration rights during the second day of hearings on its case against China at the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

"The thrust of the Philippines' arguments today centered on the deprivation of the fishing and exploration rights due to China's aggressive assertion of exclusive rights over areas covered by the Nine-Dash Line," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a bulletin issued from The Hague on Thursday.

According to Valte, Andrew Loewenstein said none of the three conditions to establish historic rights are present in China's case, making its claim "hopeless and indefensible."

The Palace official said Professor Philippe Sands argued that Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, Subi Reef, Mckennan Reef and Gaven Reef are all low-tide elevations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and as such, are not entitled to its own territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 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, she said.

Valte further said that Lawrence Martin argued that based on the Mandarin, Spanish and English translations of Article 121, features that are classified as rocks cannot have maritime entitlements despite China's construction.

"Martin also stressed that, under UNCLOS, for a feature to be considered an island, it must be capable of sustaining human habitation and economic life," she further said.

During the afternoon session, Reichler returned to the floor to prove before the Tribunal that no civilian settlements were ever established on the features in the Spratlys and that there can only be one reason why this is the case, as the features themselves are not capable of sustaining human habitation, Valte said.

She said Professor Sands discussed China's interference with the Philippines' exercise of sovereign rights under the UNCLOS with respect to living and non-living resources in the exclusive economic zone.

Sands gave as examples several incidents involving service contracts given by the Department of Energy wherein the private companies were prevented from exploration. In addition, the fishing ban mandated by China's Ministry of Agriculture covering even areas in the Philippines' EEZ, was also discussed.

Martin presented several 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. A map from 1784 was presented to prove that Bajo de Masinloc has always been part of the Philippines.

Loewenstein closed the afternoon session by presenting satellite images of installations constructed by China on Mischief Reef, among others. A video simulation was also shown to the Tribunal to demonstrate how a cutter suction dredger destroys the seabed and transfers sand to a pre-selected area. The same machine was used by China in its construction activities.

Loewenstein argued further that by engaging in these activities, China has violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines with regard to living and non-living resources in its EEZ and continental shelf, Valte said.

As stated by Sands, China's violations are "flagrant and persistent" and they continue today, Valte added. (PCOO/PND)


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