• PH files ‘memorial’ vs. China

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    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (left) confers with Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza before announcing the filing of a memorandum against China on Sunday. PHOTO BY EDWIN MUL

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (left) confers with Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza before announcing the filing of a memorandum against China on Sunday. PHOTO BY EDWIN MUL

    The government has submitted a “memorial” to the United Nations questioning China’s nine-dash line territorial policy that encroached on islets and shoals in the disputed Spratlys that are well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EZZ).

    The filing of the document was announced on Sunday by Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., a day after tensions simmered again at the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).

    On Saturday, two Chinese Coast Guard ships tried to block the path of a Philippine civilian ship transporting food and supplies to soldiers stationed at Ayungin.

    A UN arbitral tribunal is hearing the case the Philippines brought against China in January 2013 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

    Coloma explained that the memorandum or “memorial,” in the language of international law, contains all pertinent legal bases and other arguments on the position of the Philippines regarding its territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

    The memorial consists of 10 volumes, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Sunday.

    Volume I, which is 270 pages long, “contains the Philippines’ analysis of the applicable law and the relevant evidence, and demonstrates that the Arbitral Tribunal has jurisdiction over all of the claims made by the Philippines,” the DFA said.

    Volumes II through X contain the documentary evidence and maps that support the Philippine claims. The volumes consist of more than 3,700 pages, including more than 40 maps.

    The DFA said the memorial was put together by a legal team headed by Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza.

    “Ordinarily, the next step in an arbitration of this nature would be the filing of a Counter-Memorial by the other party,” the DFA said. Beijing, however, has indicated it is not interested in joining the proceedings.

    “The ultimate purpose of the Memorial is our national interest,” The DFA said. “It is about defending what is legitimately ours. It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations. It is about helping to preserve regional peace, security, and stability.”

    On Friday, deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said Manila expects the UN tribunal to rule in its favor, based on the strength of its historical and legal claims.

    “We can say that all factors have been taken into consideration when the discussions were being had on the matter of arbitration,” Valte added.

    Regarding the incident at the Ayungin Shoal, Coloma said President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the Cabinet “continue to study the situation to come up with a reasonable response.”

    He refused to say if the government would file another diplomatic protest over the recent incident, but gave assurances that the country will continue to pursue diplomatic means to resolve the issues with China.

    ‘Respect our rights’
    On Sunday, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay urged China to refrain from acts that will further escalate tension in Ayungin Shoal.

    In a statement, Binay said “Ayungin Shoal is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf, and it is our responsibility and right to replenish supplies for our naval and marine contingent in the area.”

    “We are confident that China will respect our rights and refrain from any action that will heighten tensions over our territorial disputes,” he added.

    China claims almost the entire South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

    The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims over the territory, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas and is also a major shipping lane.

    WITH RITCHIE HORARIO

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