• PH ready for Round 2

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    The Philippine delegation is prepared for the second round of proceedings in an arbitration case it filed against China with a United Nations tribunal in The Hague in The Netherlands.

    Manila had lodged the case against Beijing with the Permanent Court of Arbitration to invalidate the Asian giant’s all-encompassing claim over the South China Sea.

    The UN tribunal ruled in late October that it has jurisdiction over seven out of 15 issues raised by the Philippines against China, and set the schedule of hearings for late this month.

    China refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings, insisting that the dispute be resolved bilaterally.

    “Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay and principal counsel Paul Reichler briefed the Philippine delegation on the expected flow of the proceedings for the hearing days, assuring that we are fully prepared to present our case to the tribunal,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said in a statement on Tuesday.

    The hearings before the the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, November 24, and will end on Monday, November 30.

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario heads the 48-man Philippine delegation composed of representatives from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

    “The Philippine Embassy at The Hague, headed by Ambassador Jaime Victor Ledda, is providing support and assistance to the delegation,” Valte said.

    Also with the Philippine delegation are: Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) Rep. Rodolfo Biazon and Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

    The Philippines raised its maritime dispute with China to the arbitral tribunal after efforts to resolve the conflict through bilateral diplomatic channels went to naught as Beijing refused to budge on its claim that it owns the entire South China Sea– including the West Philippine Sea–based on a questionable nine-dash line theory.

    China was deemed to have become too aggressive in staking its claim after it took control of Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales province in 2013 and started reclaiming Philippine territories it occupied such as Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban Reefs as well as the building of artificial islands over Mabini, Burgos, Calderon and Kennar Reefs.

    Manila argues that Beijing’s sweeping claim contradicts the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

    In January 2013, it challenged the legality of the latter’s nine-dash line concept over nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas that are within the country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

    The UN tribunal had rejected China’s stand that the dispute is about sovereignty and therefore beyond the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

    Based on the Philippines’ submission, the tribunal said, the case involves interpretation and application of the Unclos.

    After this month’s round of hearings, the UN tribunal is expected to make a ruling within the first quarter of 2016.

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