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Philippines tells tribunal: South China Sea case has world impact

The room at the Peace Palace at The Hague, Netherlands where the arbitral tribunal will conduct the hearings on the South China Sea dispute. Twitter/Abigail Valte

MANILA, Philippines - The formal hearings on the South China Sea dispute started on Tuesday at The Hague, Netherlands with the Philippine delegation asking the United Nations arbitral tribunal to declare its jurisdiction to handle the case against China.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario urged the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration should declare its jurisdiction over the South China Sea case because of its global impact.

"Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario made an impassioned plea for the Tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction due to the importance of the case not just to our country but to the entire world owing to its impact on the application of the Rule of Law in maritime disputes," said Valte who is with the Philippine delegation at The Hague.

Valte said the Philippine delegation composed of representatives from all three branches of government began presenting its arguments for the country's position before the arbitral tribunal at the Peace Palace.

Solicitor General Florin Hilbay introduced the Philippines' case and presented the order of speakers for the session from 2:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m., Manila time) to 5:30 p.m.

Paul Reichler, lead counsel for the Philippines, presented the justification for the arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction over the Philippine claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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Professor Philippe Sands, who is also representing the Philippines, followed Reichler’s presentation by stating that the country did not raise questions of sovereignty over land or raise questions of maritime delimitation.

The first round of the Philippines's arguments will continue today from 10 a.m. (4 p.m., Manila time) to 1 p.m. for the morning session. The afternoon hearing will be from 2:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m., Manila time) to 5:30 p.m.

In its complaint, the Philippines asked the tribunal to declare China's so-called "nine-dash line" territorial claim over much of the South China Sea invalid under the UNCLOS.

The Philippine government has also asked the tribunal to declare the extent of territorial waters that can be accorded to at least eight islands, reefs and atolls under Chinese control in a bid to limit Beijing's reach in scattered areas of the disputed waters.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have sovereignty claims on areas in the South China Sea, among the world's busiest trade routes. Tensions flared in recent months after the Philippines and other claimant countries discovered that China had undertaken massive island-building in seven reefs and atolls in a disputed region called the Spratlys.

China has refused to participate in the arbitration, insisting that the the sea dispute with the Philippines should be resolved through bilateral talks. - with Jim Gomez, Associated Press

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