Court ends hearings on sea row

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The Philippine government is optimistic of getting a favorable ruling from the international tribunal currently deliberating on the complaint filed by the Philippines against China over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

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“The petition is now being heard before The Hague. The judges have been hearing the merits of the case and today (November 30), is the final day for the hearing on the merits,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“For the past few days, we have presented our case backed by evidence and by international law. We hope the tribunal, upon evaluating the merits of our petition, will see the rightness of our cause,” he added.

The court started hearing the merits of the case on November 24. It is expected to hand down its final decision by mid-2016.

On Monday, the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague asked clarificatory questions on the arguments presented by the Philippine delegation last week.

On October 30, the court ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case.

China is claiming territories in the West Philippine Sea using the so-called nine-dash line, a demarcation that is not found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). Under this rule, Beijing claims areas even within the exclusive economic zones of its neighbors.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan are also claiming some islands in the disputed sea but only the Philippines took Beijing to court. China however refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings, insisting that the issue should be tackled through a bilateral dialog.

Earlier, the Philippines slammed China for the “close to catastrophic” damage it has inflicted on coral reefs through its island building activities in the disputed seas.

The Philippines told the tribunal in The Hague that China’s island building activities have destroyed the seabed in the South China Sea. Manila also complained that China has robbed Filipinos of their right to fish in the contested waters.

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