Arbitral panel to hear Philippines case vs China complete

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

THE international arbitral tribunal that will hear the case filed by the Philippines against China on the West Philippine Sea dispute is finally complete with the appointment of three new panel members.

Raul Hernandez, Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing Thursday that Itlos President Shunji Yanai appointed three more members to the five-member Unclos Arbitral Tribunal.

The new members are Judge Chris Pinto from Sri Lanka, Judge Jean-Pierre Cot from France and Judge Alfred Soons from The Netherlands.


Yanai earlier appointed Judge Stanislaw Pawlak from Poland to represent China, who earlier refused to participate in selecting the tribunal members.

The Philippines also earlier nominated former Itlos President Judge Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany when it presented its Notification and Statement of Claims on January 22.

Pinto will stand as the president of the panel.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) received the letter through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, head of the Philippine legal team, on April 24.

Hernandez, however, clarified that the completion of the arbitration panel does not mean that the trial regarding the West Philippine Sea dispute will soon commence.

"The members would have to organize themselves and establish rules and regulations. They would also have to discuss if they have jurisdiction to hear the case," he said.

The Foreign Affairs official admitted there is a possibility that the panel will vote against hearing the territorial and maritime issue between the Philippines and China.

However, he remained confident that this will not be the case.

"We are very confident that this will be taken out by the tribunal and that the tribunal will award us as far as our maritime [domain] in the West Philippine Sea is concerned," Hernandez said.

"[We are confident also that] the tribunal will declare that the nine-dash line claim [of China] has no validity as far as international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos] is concerned," he added.

Unclos delineates the maritime borders of each coastal country, as well as provides a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The basis of the Philippines' claim is on this convention while China's are historically founded on the nine-dash line that covers the entire West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines hope the tribunal can declare invalid the said "excessive" claims to the resource-rich region.

China and the Philippines are locked in an intense territorial dispute over the resource-rich region that is comprised of the Spratly, Paracel and Pratas Islands.

It also includes the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal--the site of the two-month naval standoff between Manila and Beijing last year.

Manila pulled out its vessels from the shoal in July last year amid the typhoon season. Beijing practically "controls" the shoal today with about three rotating Chinese vessels.

Reportedly, Filipino fishermen can no longer go near the shoal.

The Philippines filed its claims before the Itlos on January 22 but China rejected the proposal on February 19, preferring instead to deal with claimant-countries in a bilateral level.

The West Philippine Sea is being claimed in whole by China and Taiwan, and in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

The United States, a known ally, has supported the Philippines' initiative to bring the matter before an international forum.

The European Union has also thrown its support behind Manila in hopes to find a solution to the dispute that can affect some $5 trillion global trade that passes through the sea lane annually. (CVB/Sunnex)

Local news

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