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Analyst: UN tribunal may still rule in favor of China

Members of the Philippine delegation and the foreign lawyers hired by the government wait for the hearing to start at the Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands a few weeks ago. Twitter/Abigail Valte, File

MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations arbitral tribunal may still rule in favor of China despite its absence from the hearings of the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea dispute last week, a maritime law analyst said.

University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs Director Jay Batongbacal said that the Philippines should rethink its approach on the maritime dispute if ever the tribunal rules in favor of China.

The tribunal gave China a chance to comment on the arguments of the Philippines on the maritime dispute after the oral arguments concluded last week.

READ: China given until August 17 to comment on Philippines's claims

The maritime law expert warned that the arbitration case could spell disaster for the Philippines if it fails to persuade the tribunal.

"The case now depends on at least one of the Philippines's claims being within the tribunal’s jurisdiction; those pertaining to the validity of China’s (nine-dash line) and the jurisdictional entitlements of maritime features remain the most important," Batongbacal said in an article released by Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Batongbacal stressed that the decision of the tribunal on the jurisdiction and admissibility over the maritime dispute might jeopardize the credibility and viability of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"The political impact and historical significance of exercising jurisdiction over the South China Sea disputes (are) eminently attractive if it could take the regional legal situation a step closer toward clarity and resolution," the maritime law expert added.

Batongbacal noted that the purpose of the oral arguments was for the tribunal to decide whether they had jurisdiction on the claims presented by the Philippines and to determine if such claims are "ripe for decision."

The tribunal is set to decide within the year on whether it has jurisdiction over the South China Sea dispute.

RELATED: Philippines vs China: Hearing on jurisdiction ends | FULL TEXT: China's statement on conclusion of arbitration hearing on sea row

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