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‘Special team’ to push SCS claim

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The Office of the Solicitor General has formed a “special team” to study how to move the country forward with its seven-year-old arbitral victory over China on territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said the panel is composed of “high-caliber solicitors who have extensive training in international law, international public law, and also in arbitration.”

The team was tasked, Guevarra said, “to study the legal options that the Philippine government may take in connection with the victory that we had secured in 2016 from the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against our neighbor.”

“We all know the subsisting problems even after that victory in the arbitration court,” he told lawmakers during a budget hearing in the House of Representatives.

Guevarra said the team will also study suggestions to elevate the matter to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and have another arbitration in the PCA.

“We are very much aware of the proposal to bring the matter to the UN General Assembly, which is a very political forum, and also a similar proposal to have a second round of arbitration with the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” Guevarra said.

“But these are matters that have to be studied very carefully by the Office of the Solicitor General as counsel for the Republic because these may have very, very serious and important implications, so right now we are in the midst of this study,” he added.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he would propose a P10 million budget for the endeavor.

Tensions between the Philippines and China flared up again after the Chinese Coast Guard fired a water cannon at Philippine Coast Guard vessels en route to Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre on August 5.

Earlier, senators unanimously adopted Resolution 718 that strongly condemns the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and incursions in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels.

The resolution also listed options that the Philippine government may undertake to assert and secure the country’s sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, namely:

– Bringing international attention to China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine EEZ and its continued violation of the Hague Ruling and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea;

– Utilizing international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the West Philippine Sea;

– Engaging like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings, and other fora to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS;

– Subject to necessity and prudence, filing a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly to call for the cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the Philippines’ established rights in the WPS; and

– Pursuing such other diplomatic modes as the Department of Foreign Affairs may deem appropriate and necessary.


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