Del Rosario, Morales: Case vs Xi not junked ‘

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star

This is just the beginning’

MANILA, Philippines — It was not a dismissal of their complaint but a call for “new facts and evidence.”

This was how former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales explained the action of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on their bid to hold Chinese President Xi Jinping liable for supposed crimes against humanity through environmental degradation for his part in China’s artificial island building in the South China Sea.

The two former officials issued the statement yesterday after the ICC based in The Hague announced that the crimes allegedly committed by Xi and other Beijing officials “do not fall within the territorial or otherwise personal jurisdiction of the Court.” The ICC also cited “lack of territorial or personal jurisdiction.”

Del Rosario and Carpio were unfazed.

“Let them gloat in the meantime. This is just the beginning. Abangan,” Morales declared in a statement.

“The ICC Prosecutor did NOT dismiss our Communication.
 The Prosecutor welcomes ‘new facts and evidence’ to proceed with the case and we are providing them,” Del Rosario and Morales said in their joint statement released by their lawyer Anna Marie Corominas to reporters.

“This has only strengthened our resolve,” they added.

In a report released Thursday night, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said China is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC. Bensouda said that while the Philippines falls within the jurisdiction of the ICC, it cannot be considered that the alleged crimes were committed within Philippine territory.

She also emphasized that while Del Rosario and Morales alleged that the crimes were committed within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone or EEZ, the EEZ is not part of the definition of “territory” under the Rome Statute.

Bensouda, in her report, however stated that “senders” of the complaint were advised of the “possibility of submitting further information regarding the same situation in the light of new facts and evidence.”

Morales, a former Supreme Court associate justice, said their critics can gloat for a moment but that she and Del Rosario still have cards to play.

In their 17-page communication dated March 13, Morales, Del Rosario and a group of fishermen said China’s massive reclamation works in the West Philippine Sea have deprived the Filipinos, especially the fishermen, of food and livelihood.

The two former government officials said Beijing’s reclamation activities also undermine food and energy security not only of the Philippines but also of other coastal states in the region.

The communication stated that “China has intentionally and forcibly excluded Philippine nationals from making use of the resources in certain relevant areas of the sea (such as blocking Filipino fishermen’s access to traditional fishing grounds at Scarborough Shoal); engaged in massive illegal reclamation and artificial island-building in the Spratly Islands, causing significant damage to the marine life in the area; and tolerated and actively supported illegal and harmful fishing practices by Chinese nationals, which has caused serious environmental damage.”

Del Rosario was part of the legal team that challenged China’s claims over the South China Sea before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration also in The Hague.

In its 2016 ruling, the arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines by invalidating China’s incredible claim over almost the entire South China Sea. 

Despite the legal victory, the Philippines has remained helpless in the face of China’s seizure of land features in the West Philippine Sea, largely due to the Duterte administration’s policy of appeasement toward China.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said bad weather has been delaying the construction of a beaching ramp on Pag-asa Island. 

Asked to confirm reports that the unnamed contractor had abandoned the project, Lorenzana replied: “No. Because of bad weather, it is difficult to transport materials from Puerto Princesa. Second, when an equipment bogs down, it takes time to have it repaired.”  –  Jaime Laude

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