DFA: UN tribunal cannot enforce ruling on China sea row

Louis Bacani (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2014 - 10:52am

MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations arbitral tribunal cannot enforce its ruling on the case filed by the Philippines against China's excessive territorial claims, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, DFA Spokesman Charles Jose said whatever decision the tribunal may reach, it will be both legally binding to the Philippines and China since both nations are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

"Although, as many people [have] observed, the tribunal has no power to enforce its ruling," Jose admitted.

Jose said what the DFA and the Philippine government are hoping is that the UN tribunal--with the help of the international community--will make China realize that it is also best for its interest to respect and comply with the decision on the arbitration case.

"What the tribunal is trying to do is to set an order to the actions in our maritime areas. So, if China wants to be seen as a responsible member of the international community, then it is better for them to work, to operate within the established international order rather than outside of it," the DFA spokesman said.

On March 30, the Philippines submitted electronically its 4,000-page memorial or written argument to the registrar of the United Nations arbitral tribunal based in The Hague.

The DFA had said that the memorial contains the country's analysis of the applicable law and relevant evidence including documents and maps, and demonstrates that the arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction over all of the Philippines' claims.

Read: Phl submits papers vs China

China has said that it will not join the arbitration case since it wants to purse bilateral talks.

But the DFA spokesperson said the Philippines has always tried but failed to pursue bilateral talks with China since the  Panatag shoal incident in 2012.

The country's last resort, Jose said, was the arbitration case.

The case was filed amid the ever-increasing tensions in the disputed waters. In the recent months, it was reported that the Chinese coast guard blocked the entry of Philippine vessels into the Ayungin Shoal.

Meanwhile, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are monitoring the developments of the Philippines' arbitration case against China, according to Jose.

"ASEAN countries are following very closely our arbitration case filed before UN because it will have significant implication on their overlapping claims with China as well," the DFA official said.

He added that the Philippines is working with the ASEAN to fast-track the establishment of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

An American academic expert on Chinese studies had said that the Philippines' arbitration case won't succeed and that China will not necessarily follow what the tribunal has to say.

"China indeed will not be willing to consider a third party being involved in this particular dispute. China's long-standing policy has been bilateral negotiation. So it will sustain that," said Marwyn Samuels, professor emeritus at the Syracuse University in New York.

Read: Phl case vs China will fail - US expert

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