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Phl benefits from China's refusal to join arbitration

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday that China's refusal to participate in the arbitration process on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute is favorable to the Philippines.

Gazmin said China’s decision would raise questions as to why it does not want to face the arbitration tribunal.

“E di mas maganda para sa atin pag hindi sila mag-participate (It would be favorable for us if they [China] do not participate),” Gazmin said in an interview.

“Well, the natural reaction is why they don’t want to face the tribunal” he added.

Gazmin noted that the arbitration process would continue even if China had rejected it.

“Whether they reject or not, the case will proceed even if they do not participate,” he said.

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Last month, the Philippines challenged China’s territorial claim to most of the West Philippine Sea before an international tribunal of the United Nations (UN).

China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea and the East Sea. The area, delineated by a so-called nine-dash line, covers more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs.

The Philippines believes China’s nine-dash line, which outlined its claims over most of the sea is illegal. China’s claims also overlap with those of the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.

The Philippines hopes the international tribunal would declare China’s claim in the West Philippine Sea as contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

The Philippines also asked China to desist from unlawful activities that violate its sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

In explaining the government’s decision to bring the dispute to the UN tribunal, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines has tried almost all avenues for a peaceful settlement of the territorial row.

On Tuesday, China rejected the conduct of international proceedings on the dispute and insisted that the row should be settled through bilateral talks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the notice of arbitration forwarded by the Philippines have “serious mistakes both in fact and law.”

China reiterated that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire West Philippine Sea, a claim that the Philippines has described as “excessive.”

The Philippines, however, said the refusal of China to join the proceedings will not derail the arbitration process.

“China’s action will not interfere with the process of arbitration initiated by the Philippines on 22 January 2013. The Arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” the Foreign Affairs department said in a statement.

“The Philippines remains committed to arbitration which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all,” it added.

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