Phl submits papers vs China
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Citing national interest and seeking a just and durable solution grounded on international law, the Philippines submitted yesterday a 4,000-page memorial or written argument to the United Nations arbitral tribunal hearing its case against China for the latter’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines submitted electronically its memorial to the registrar of the tribunal based in The Hague at 9:37 a.m. (Manila time).

Copies were also sent to each arbitrator – the Chinese ambassador in the Netherlands and the Chinese chargé d’affaires in Manila.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the memorial, consisting of 10 volumes, presents the Philippines’ case on the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal and the merits of the country’s claims.

The Philippines did not disclose whether harassment of Philippine fishing vessels by the Chinese coast guard on Ayungin and Panatag Shoals was included in the memorial.

Del Rosario said the Philippines is obliged to preserve confidentiality.

The Philippines protested China’s actions when its coast guard vessels drove away the two Philippine ships from Ayungin Shoal on March 9.

The shoal is called Ayungin Shoal by Manila and Ren’ai Reef by the Chinese. It is also called Second Thomas Shoal.

China’s expulsion of the two Filipino civilian vessels from Ayungin prevented them from re-supplying a small group of Filipino soldiers guarding the shoal.

The Philippines also protested the firing of water cannons at Filipino fishermen on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, in January and other harassment committed by Chinese authorities.

Volume I of the memorial contains the Philippines’ analysis of the applicable law and relevant evidence, and demonstrates that the arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction over all of the claims made by the Philippines in its Statement of Claim.

“And every claim is meritorious. It sets out the specific relief sought by the Philippines in regard to each of its claims, and shows why it is entitled to such relief,” Del Rosario said in a press conference with Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Volumes 2 through 10, which contain the documentary evidence and maps that support the Philippines’ claims, consist of more than 3,700 pages, including over 40 maps.

“With firm conviction, the ultimate purpose of the memorial is our national interest. It is about defending what is legitimately ours. It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations,” Del Rosario said.

“It is about helping to preserve regional peace, security and stability. Finally, it is about seeking not just any kind of resolution but a just and durable solution grounded on international law,” he said.

The memorial was submitted in conformity with the Rules of Procedure adopted by the five-member arbitral tribunal last August, which established March 30, 2014 as the due date for its submission.

The Philippines will follow the guidance of the arbitral tribunal with regard to the publication of the memorial.

Non-participant?

China said last week it will never accept nor participate in the international arbitration unilaterally initiated and pushed by the Philippines, claiming Beijing’s position has a solid basis in international law.

The arbitration initiated by the Philippines is supported by the United Nations, European Union and many other countries.

But China said it is hopeful that the Philippine side will be fully aware of the complexity and sensitivity of the South China Sea issue, return to the right track of resolving the dispute through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible, and stop going any further down the wrong track so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations.

“Ordinarily, the next step in an arbitration of this nature would be the filing of a counter-memorial by the other party,” Del Rosario said. “However, it is currently unknown whether China will appear in the case, or whether it will continue its present policy of abstaining from the proceedings. Under the Rules of Procedure, the arbitral tribunal will decide on the next steps and advise the parties.”

Jardeleza said the Philippines amended earlier this month its Statement of Claim to include Ayungin Shoal as one of the items subject of the claim and the arbitration.

Ayungin Shoal is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. The Philippines has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the shoal.

“We continue to hope that our neighboring countries who have similar stakes in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea will take a position similar to us,” Jardeleza said.

He said China is bound to accept and implement the decision to be handed down by the tribunal.

The Philippine government filed a case for binding arbitration before a United Nations tribunal over its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea on Jan. 22, 2013.

Only alternative

Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon backed yesterday the Philippine government’s submission of its memorial to the UN arbitral tribunal.

“This is our only alternative because in reality, China is a big country. It is important for us that our relationship with other countries must be based on international laws,” Drilon said in a radio interview.

He urged the administration to remain firm in its position in defending the West Philippine Sea despite the harassment coming from Chinese naval vessels.

He also supported the move of the defense department to buy more military jets in a bid to further improve the Armed Forces’ capability in defending the Philippine territory. - With Christina Mendez

AYUNGIN SHOAL CHINA DEL ROSARIO MEMORIAL PHILIPPINE PHILIPPINES SHOAL SOUTH CHINA SEA TRIBUNAL UNITED NATIONS
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