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PH defies China threat

Won’t back down on UN sea case

The Philippines said Friday it will defy Chinese warnings and pursue a case in the United Nations challenging Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea.

The Philippine government is to file as scheduled its ‘memorial,’ or ‘formal pleading’ on Sunday, March 30, which would allow the UN arbitral tribunal to study the Philippine argument that the Chinese claim covers parts of Philippine territory.

Last Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned the Philippines against proceeding with the UN case.

“China will never accept nor participate in the international arbitration unilaterally initiated and pushed by the Philippines, and China’s position has a solid basis in international law,” Hong told a news conference in Beijing.

“We hope that the Philippine side... returns to the right track of resolving the dispute through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible, (and) stops going any further down the wrong track so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations.”

The Philippines had sought UN arbitration on January 2013, to settle the dispute, but China, in a note verbale to Manila on February 19, 2013, has rejected the move.

The case had been remanded to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which set a March 2014 deadline for the Philippines to submit its ‘memorial’ which, in turn, would pave the way for the ITLOS to hear and decide on the merits of the case.

Malacañang presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is prepared for any retaliatory action from China over the filing of the memorial.

The Philippine government is to file as scheduled its ‘memorial,’ or ‘formal pleading’ on Sunday, March 30, which would allow the UN arbitral tribunal to study the Philippine argument that the Chinese claim covers parts of Philippine territory.

Last Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned the Philippines against proceeding with the UN case.

“China will never accept nor participate in the international arbitration unilaterally initiated and pushed by the Philippines, and China’s position has a solid basis in international law,” Hong told a news conference in Beijing.

“We hope that the Philippine side... returns to the right track of resolving the dispute through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible, (and) stops going any further down the wrong track so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations.”

The Philippines had sought UN arbitration on January 2013, to settle the dispute, but China, in a note verbale to Manila on February 19, 2013, has rejected the move.

The case had been remanded to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which set a March 2014 deadline for the Philippines to submit its ‘memorial’ which, in turn, would pave the way for the ITLOS to hear and decide on the merits of the case.

Malacañang presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is prepared for any retaliatory action from China over the filing of the memorial.

China’s aggressive actions in the region’s disputed territories.

The two experts noted that the Philippines has already denounced what it called China’s “creeping invasion” in the region.

“Although less dramatic than Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors to assert and advance an expansive set of territorial and maritime claims encompassed by its “nine-dash line,” which skirts the coastlines of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines and gobbles up islands, rocks and resources in the process,” they said.

They also noted that the arbitration case filed by the Philippines is an opportunity to resolve the issue peacefully, unlike Russia’s military takeover of Crimea.

“Legal experts predict a ruling could come down as early as mid- or late 2015.In the meantime, countries in the Asia-Pacific—and the international community—have an opportunity to decide what kind of world they want to live in: one governed by rules and institutions,  the other by brute force.”

“If Asia wishes to prevent events in its own neighborhood that mirror those unfolding today in the Ukraine, it must seize this remarkably clear-cut opportunity to support the development of a rules-based system in Asia. Staying silent on the Philippines arbitration case is a tacit vote against such a future.”

The Philippines is asking the tribunal to issue an award that would, among others:

- declare China’s rights in regard to maritime areas in the South China Sea - like the rights of the Philippines - are those that are established by United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas such as rights to an exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf;

- declare China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, which is based on its so-called nine-dash line, as contrary to UNCLOS and invalid;

- require China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS and require China to desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines, whose forces are dwarfed by its giant neighbor in an increasingly tense stand-off over some reefs and shoals, sought UN arbitration in January 2012 to settle the dispute, but China has rejected the move.

On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei warned the Philippines against proceeding with the UN case.

“China will never accept nor participate in the international arbitration unilaterally initiated and pushed by the Philippines, and China’s position has a solid basis in international law,” Hong told a news conference in Beijing.

“We hope that the Philippine side... returns to the right track of resolving the dispute through negotiation and consultation as soon as possible, (and) stops going any further down the wrong track so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations.”

The Philippine case alleged that Chinese claims to areas of the South China Sea and its seabed cover areas as far as 870 nautical miles (1,611 kilometres) from the nearest Chinese coast, and are thus illegal under the UNCLOS.

Both countries are signatories to the 1982 treaty.

In the latest hostile encounter between the two, Chinese coastguard ships this month blocked two Filipino-flagged vessels headed for Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin) in the Spratly group of islands, which is around 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan.

The Philippines said the vessels were bringing supplies to Filipino marines aboard a decrepit navy ship that it beached on the shoal in 1999.

The Philippine has also accused China of firing water cannon at Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal, another South China Sea outcrop. With AFP

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