Analyst: Tribunal's initial ruling may invite others to challenge China

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The recent decision of a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the Philippines's case against China may invite legal challenges from other states, an analyst said.

Siding with the Philippines, the tribunal decided it has jurisdiction over the arbitration case on the maritime dispute between the two countries.

READ: Document: Tribunal's award on jurisdiction in South China Sea case

University of the Philippines professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said that regardless of the case's final outcome, the jurisdictional decision stands to benefit other states with their own maritime disputes with China.

"Internationally, this could seriously undermine China’s influence over South China Sea stakeholders; domestically, it could challenge the credibility of its leadership," Batongbacal said in an analysis released by Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The maritime law expert noted that China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea may now be legally discussed by the tribunal without the country's direct participation.

Other states with maritime disputes with China now have proven legal approach, particularly those concerning Chinese operations to assert maritime claims beyond the 12-nautical mile territorial sea of any land feature, Batongbacal said.

Batongbacal noted that China's decision not to participate in the proceedings at The Hague may have affected the tribunal's decision.

"The tribunal’s decision indicates that China’s recent reliance on exceptionalism and realpolitik by harsh assertiveness and disproportionate unilateralism, begun with non-appearance in the arbitration proceedings and culminating in the shocking mass-destruction and conversion of vast coral reefs into artificial islands for potential military control of the disputed area, appears to have backfired," Batongbacal said.

He added that the tribunal saw the need to ensure the relevance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) dispute settlement mechanisms to all maritime and territorial disputes.

"Any further use of raw power and military/paramilitary strategy would solidify the emergent alignment between other claimants and external parties rallying behind the mutually accepted legal order established by UNCLOS," the maritime law expert said.

Batongbacal said the tribunal's recent decision does not suggest that China stands to lose the case against the Philippines completely.

"Beijing’s secondary line of defense – that each measure for relief requested by Manila ultimately requires maritime delimitation to be carried out before it can be granted – remains to be considered with the merits of the case," Batongbacal said.

The Philippines, however, considered the arbitral tribunal's award on jurisdiction as a "significant step forward."

Meanwhile, China shrugged off the decision, citing that it will not affect its sovereignty, rights and jurisdiction in the disputed sea.

The tribunal is yet to convene a hearing regarding the Philippines's claims. The dates have been set for the merits hearing but will not be open to the public.

vuukle comment












  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with