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Philippines expecting Hague ruling vs China by May

In this Nov. 26, 2015 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario confers with University of Wollongong ocean research and security professor Clive Schofield, one of the expert witnesses presented by the Philippines, on the third day of oral arguments before the United Nations arbitration tribunal based at The Hague, Netherlands. Abigail Valte/Released, file

MANILA, Philippines — Outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said that the Philippines is expecting the final ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on its case against China by May.

In January 2014, the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China before the international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands to invalidate the latter's excessive claims in the South China Sea.

"We hope that the decision will come out before May. We don’t know what the chances of that might be but it looks doable from where we sit," Del Rosario told members of the press

Del Rosario also expressed his concerns over China's aggressive activities in the disputed sea that undermine the territorial claims of its smaller neighbors.

READ: 2 Chinese commercial planes land at Kagitingan Reef

Last month, Manila protested China's test flights on Kagitingan Reef in the West Philippine Sea. Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said that China's action was provocative and restricts freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed sea.

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China, however, insisted that the flights conducted by its aircraft fall completely with its sovereignty. Beijing accused the Manila of having ulterior motives with its claims.

Del Rosario said that the South China Sea dispute will be discussed in the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations-US Summit in California from February 15 to 16.

US President Barack Obama will host the meeting which will also be attended by President Benigno Aquino III and his counterparts from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"We want to bring to the fore the rule of law, we want to discuss freedom of navigation, we want to look at the island-building, as well as the question of de-facto ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) and arbitration. Those are the topics that we will be looking at," Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario will step down as Foreign Affairs Secretary on March 7 due to health concerns.

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