PH's bold move: West PH sea dispute brought before UN

No longer content with waiting for a negotiated solution with China, the government has elevated the West Philippine Sea dispute to a United Nations arbitrator.

"[T]he Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an Arbitral Tribunal under Article 287 and Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Tuesday.

Related story: PH cautious on China oil offer

This, as he noted that the Philippines "has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement" of the territorial spat.

"We hope that the arbitral proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution," Del Rosario said.

Arbitration in international tribunals on maritime disputes usually take 3-4 years, he noted.

China has been notified of the UN challenge through a diplomatic document given to the Chinese Ambassador to Manila.

It includes the notification and notice of claim challenging before UN the validity of China's "nine-dash line claim" to most of the West Philippine Sea.

Del Rosario said the claim is "contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful" as it "encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea."

Related story: Japan seen as foil for China in territorial row

Manila is seeking from the arbitration body a declaration that the Philippines and China enjoy rights established by international laws.

Particularly questioned is China' move to occupy and build structures on submerged banks, reefs and other elevations that are considered part of the Philippine continental shelf or the international seabed.

The UN body has also been urged to compel China to "bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS."

The Philippines also hopes the UN tribunal will require China to "desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea."

Related story: PH backs Brunei code of conduct on seas

The government's claim "is well founded in fact and law," Del Rosario said, noting that this will be substantiated thorugh documents to be submitted during the arbitration proceedings.

He noted, however, that the government will still exert all efforts to improve relations with China "on the basis of mutual respect."

"We strongly believe that this action is the appropriate response to put our diplomatic relations in its proper context," Del Rosario noted.

Related slideshow: The dispute with China

Graphic showing contending claims in the South China Sea. APEC giants China and Japan, along with South Korea, Russia and others are embroiled in various disputes that have fanned nationalist flames
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AFP News
Sun, Sep 9, 2012 9:55 AM PHT
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