The government has formally filed a “memorial” before the United Nations questioning China’s nine-dash line territorial rule that encroached islets and shoals in the disputed Spratlys that are well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EZZ).
The filing was announced on Sunday by Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., a day after tensions rose anew at the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) when two Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked the path of a a civilian ship transporting food and supplies to soldiers stationed there.
“Today, the government has formally filed a memorandum with the arbitral tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS],” Coloma said.
The memorandum or “memorial” in the language of international law, he explained, 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).
“[Foreign Affairs] Secretary Albert Del Rosario will issue a formal statement later,” Coloma added.
Ragarding the incident at the Ayungin Shoal, Coloma said President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the Cabinet are monitoring the developments.
“The President and the Cabinet continue to study the situation to come up with a reasonable response,” he stressed.
He refused to comment if the government would file another diplomatic protest over the incident but assured that like the filing of the memorial, the country will continue to pursue diplomatic means to resolve the issues with China.
“Our focus is firmly set on the continuous use of diplomacy and peaceful means to resolve all disagreements in the West Philippine Sea,” Coloma said.
In any case, it would be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs to make the necessary move, he said.
On Friday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said there was no stopping the government in filing the memorial despite reported requests by Beijing for a delay.
Valte described the decision as “well thought out” and they expect the UN tribunal to rule in favor of the Philippines based on the strength of its historical and legal claims.
“At least for the Philippine government, we can say that all factors have been taken into consideration when the discussions were being had on the matter of arbitration,” Valte said.
As to China’s possible response, Valte said the DFA has the primary role on “what will happen next or what won’t happen next in terms of responses.”
JOEL M. SY EGCO