Philippines hopeful on sea row case against China

MANILA, Dec. 2 -- The Philippines has expressed optimism that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would hand down a “truly just solution” to its case against China over disputed waters.

According to a bulletin issued by Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte from The Hague on Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario summarized the salient points of the arguments presented to the Tribunal over the course of the First and Second Rounds of Argument.

“We recognize that the Tribunal’s mission is judicial. The Tribunal must decide the claims on the basis of the facts and the law, in this case UNCLOS,” Secretary del Rosario said in his speech before the Tribunal on Monday. “We submit that on that basis alone, the Tribunal must sustain all of the Philippines’ claims, especially in regard to the maritime entitlements of the Parties, and the exclusive sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines within 200 M of its coasts, except for the 12 M territorial seas around the disputed insular features.”

“Your mandate to achieve justice is not carried out in a vacuum. Judges and arbitrators are not expected to be oblivious to the realities on the ground. UNCLOS is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The object and purpose of the Charter, as well as those of the Convention, are far from irrelevant. These purposes include the maintenance and strengthening of international peace and security. Nothing would contribute more to these objectives than the Tribunal’s finding that China’s rights and obligations are neither more nor less than those established by UNCLOS. And that the entitlements of the tiny insular features it claims are limited to 12 M,” he added.

Del Rosario further said that finding otherwise would leave the Philippines and its Southeast Asian neighbors “in worse straits than when we embarked on this arbitral voyage.”

According to Del Rosario, it would convert the nine-dash line, or its equivalent in the form of exaggerated maritime zones for tiny, uninhabitable features, into a Berlin Wall of the Sea. A giant fence, owned by, and excluding everyone but, China itself.

He expressed confidence that the Tribunal would interpret and apply the law “in a way that produces a truly just solution,” one that truly promotes peace, security and good neighborliness in the South China Sea.

The Philippine official also thanked the members of the Tribunal for their “care, dedication, wisdom and courage” during the proceedings.

“We confidently entrust our fate, the fate of the region and, indeed, the fate of the Convention to you. We know that in your capable hands, the rule of law will not be reduced to the quaint aspiration of a time now past, but rather will be accorded the primacy that the founders of the United Nations and the drafters of UNCLOS envisioned,” he said.

Del Rosario acknowledged the members of the Philippines' legal team, led by Principal Counsel Paul Reichler, Lawrence Martin, professors Philippe Sands, Bernard Oxman, Alan Boyle, and Andrew Loewenstein.

“The Philippines could not have entrusted this case, our fate, to more skilled, principled and determined hands. I know they share the Philippines’ firm conviction about the need to uphold the international rule of law as the bedrock of peace, order and stability in our world,” he said.

After Del Rosario's speech, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay delivered the closing remarks.

Presiding Arbitrator Judge Thomas Mensah officially adjourned the proceedings. (PCOO/PND)


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