Philippines junks China’s request on memorial

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MALACAÑANG has junked a supposed request by China to delay the filing of a memorial before the United Nations challenging the latter’s claims on some parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

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Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the filing of the memorial, which is actually a memorandum, before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) aims to contest the Beijing’s nine-dash line territorial rule.

Valte described the decision as “well thought out,” adding that they expect a favorable judgment by the UN tribunal on the matter.

“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 told reporters.

Valte stressed the memorial “will contain the Philippine position on the matter of the west of the nine-dash line.”

“Necessarily, the other side will have to receive copies of the Memorial, but I will have to defer you to DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] on what will happen next or what won’t happen next in terms of responses,” the Palace official said.

While critics believe that the UN body may not actually enforce its judgment, Valte said any favorable action by the tribunal will give the Philippines “additional weight” on its position.

“Well, at least, assuming that a favorable decision is rendered, then that is additional weight for the Philippine position when it comes because, the fact of the matter is, that is a tribunal that is empowered really to pass judgment on these things based on international law, which is upheld by most countries that subscribed to it,” she explained.

Reports indicated that the Chinese government had asked President Benigno Aquino 3rd through back channels to delay the filing of the memorial as a gesture of Manila’s willingness to improve ties with China.

Accompanying the request, reports further said, was a promise that China will withdraw its ships from Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal) to restore the relationship to where it was before April 8, 2012 when Chinese vessels “harassed” a Philippine Coast Guard vessel that resulted in a standoff.

China also said that if the Philippines delays filing the claim, it will not establish a South China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone like it did in the East China Sea, which included air space over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands.

When asked about preparations in case China imposed sanctions on the Philippines following the filing of the memorial by the end of the month, Valte said: “Let’s cross the bridge when we get there.”

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