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Manila ‘sues’ Beijing over 9-dash line

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has taken the first legal step to stop China from infringing on the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea by notifying the Chinese ambassador to Manila, Ma Keqing, that the country is challenging Beijing’s nine-dash line and other violations before an international tribunal.

“This afternoon, the Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an Arbitral Tribunal…of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos] in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea [South China Sea],” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a news briefing.

Del Rosario was accompanied by Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza. “We expect international law to be the great equalizer,” he said. The Philippines is taking this action independently, the foreign office said.

According to del Rosario, he had summoned Ma at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on Monday to give her a note verbale.

“The note verbale contains the Notification and Statement of Claim that challenges before the Arbitral Tribunal the validity of China’s nine-dash line claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including the [West Philippine Sea] and to desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 Unclos,” del Rosario said.

He added that legal proceedings against China are in line with President Aquino’s policy espousing a peaceful and rule-based resolution of the dispute in the West Philippine Sea, in accordance with Unclos.

The argument rests on the Philippines’s claim that its EEZ should not be included under China’s nine-dash line claim, which contains almost 90 percent of the South China Sea.

“The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China,” del Rosario said.

The foreign office said it believes the time to act is now, or the country would default on its claim to parts of the South China Sea.

 It is not yet clear whether China will join the Philippines in the arbitration process. In August 25, 2008, China produced a waiver, excluding them from compulsory arbitration under Unclos.

Del Rosario said that on numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the country has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle the dispute.

 In 1995 China occupied the Mischief Reef, which the country has named Panganiban Reef in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

 China said it was building structures in Panganiban Reef to protect its fishermen from the elements.

 Since then, however, it has constructed and maintained  permanent  structures, complete with satellite dishes and armed guards around the reef and has never left the area.

 The Philippines has sent China scores of diplomatic protests, including the latest exchange of note verbale when China occupied Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal) in April 2012.

 Del Rosario said that to this day, “solution is still elusive” and hopes that the legal proceedings “shall bring the dispute to a durable solution.”

 The arbitration is expected to last from three to four years, based on cases handled by the tribunal.

 

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