Polish judge named panel member in Phl-China territorial row case

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A Polish judge has been appointed by the United Nations arbitration body as the second member of a tribunal that will hear the Philippines' case regarding the territorial dispute over parts of the South China Sea.

In a briefing on Monday, Raul Hernandez, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) President Shunji Yanai has named Polish judge Stanislaw Pawlak as Beijing's arbiter.

Pawlak will join Manila's arbiter, German judge Rudiger Wolfrum, in the panel.

Beijing has consistently refused to discuss the territorial row under any arrangement save bilateral negotiations between the Philippines and China.

The Philippines has been claiming that Scarborough Shoal, which triggered a standoff between Manila and Beijing in April, is within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines as provided for by the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea. China, on the other hand, has been claiming the territory on the basis of historical claims.

"The initiation of Arbitral Proceedings against China on the nine-dash line is an operationalization of President Aquino's policy for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the WPS in accordance with international law specifically UNCLOS," DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario has said in filing the arbitration case.

"The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. On numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the Philippines has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle these disputes. To this day, a solution is still elusive. We hope that the Artbitral Proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution," he added.

Del Rosario said the Philippines asserts that China's so-called nine-dash line claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful.

The DFA chief also said Manila is hoping that the arbitration tribunal will direct China to respect the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ (exclusive economic zone), continental shelf, contiguous zone, and territorial sea over the West Philippine Sea.

Arbitration has been defined both by the 1899 and 1907 Hague conventions as "the settlement of differences between judges of their own choice and on the basis of respect for law."

An arbitration tribunal may be composed of a single arbitrator or a collegiate body. Contracting parties would have to shoulder arbitration costs.

As for the cost  of the proceedings that the Filipino people would have to pay for, Del Rosario said "one can not put a price in the concerted effort of the Filipino people and government in defending our patrimony, territory, national interest and national honor."

He said the arbitration proceedings may last between three and four years.

Zhang Hua, Deputy Chief of Political Section and Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy, said the "disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations."

"This (settlement of disputes through negotiations) is also the consensus reached by parties concerned in the DOC (The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea)," Zhang  has said.

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