Phl confident of case as oral hearings on sea row begin this week
Alexis Romero ( - November 22, 2015 - 2:18am

MANILA, Philippines - Two days before the oral hearing on the merits of the Philippines’s arbitration case against China, Malacañang said it is optimistic that it will be able to present a “very good case” before the international court.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Philippines’s lawyers studied the case thoroughly from all angles before filing it before the international arbitral tribunal. 

“We studied our claims in the light of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We have seen the initial response of the tribunal with respect to the issue of jurisdiction. Our lawyers have prepared for this,” Lacierda told state-run radio station dzRB on Sunday.

“We have anticipated all angles and, again, are we confident? Yes, we are confident that we can present a very good case before the arbitral tribunal, and we certainly hope that the jurors will see it our way,” he added.

The oral hearing on the merits of the Philippines’s arbitration case will be held from November 24-30 at The Hague in the Netherlands.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, a potentially oil-and-gas-rich area where more than $5 trillion worth of trade passes through every year. The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the area. 

China has been conducting maritime patrols in disputed areas to assert its expansive territorial claim, which is based on its so-called “historical rights.” The Chinese government is also building what appear to be military structures on at least seven South China Sea reefs that are also being claimed by the Philippines.

In 2013, the Philippines challenged China’s territorial claim before the international arbitral tribunal, calling it “excessive” and “exaggerated.” China, however, refused to recognize the case and insisted that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea. 

Last October, the Philippines scored a legal victory after an arbitration court in The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case it filed against China. The court said China’s refusal to join the proceedings does not deprive it of jurisdiction over the case.

With the issue of jurisdiction settled, the next hearings will deal with the merits of the Philippines’s case.

Freedom voyage

Meanwhile, security officials have differing views on a plan by youth volunteers to join a month-long trip to the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to support the Philippines’ territorial claim. 

Around 10,000 youth volunteers are expected to join the “Freedom Voyage to the Kalayaan Island Group” from November 30 to December 30 organized by former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon. The trip aims to create awareness about the territorial dispute.

Armed Forces Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez said he is not in favor of the trip because it poses “unnecessary risk.”

“We endanger unnecessarily the lives of the participants. What they will do poses unnecessary risk. They do not know how treacherous the sea condition is right now. If ever they will do that, they are ill-advised,” Lopez said.

“They will not travel via a cemented road,” he added.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the volunteers were merely showing “patriotic fervor” and there is nothing wrong with their action.

“We are very thankful they are showing their patriotic fervor and their civic mindedness,” Padilla said.

“We are happy for your expression of your patriotic fervor, and we are glad we have so many youth who are like this, so morally we support them but materially, I’m not aware if we have commitment,” he added.

Defense department public affairs chief Arsenio Andolong said they have not received any communication from the group that organized the trip.

“Filipinos can travel to islands within our territory for as long as they follow safety regulations and observe proper procedures in terms of coordinating with the concerned authorities and local governments,” he said.

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