The Philippines will argue its case against China’s claim over most of the disputed South China Sea at The Hague next month, the foreign department said Monday.
The Netherlands-based UN court is scheduled to conduct a hearing from July 7 on a case lodged by the Philippines in 2013 which China has spurned, foreign department spokesman Charles Jose said.
“Right now we are preparing for the oral arguments in The Hague on July 7 to 13. Our team from Manila and from the United States will be flying there,” Jose told reporters.
Philippine officials and diplomats, assisted by US lawyers, will represent the country in the proceedings, Jose said.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, even areas close to the coasts of its neighbors. Its claim is disputed by the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The waters are a crucial sea lane and rich fishing ground also believed to hold large mineral resources.
The Philippines asked the UN tribunal in January 2013 to declare China’s claim invalid and against international law.
Manila says some of the areas claimed by its powerful Asian neighbor encroach on the former’s exclusive economic zone as defined by a 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea, which both countries have ratified.
Recently the Philippines has accused China of taking more aggressive measures to press its claim.
These include reclaiming land to turn previously submerged islets into artificial islands capable of hosting military installations.
This has alarmed foreign governments including the United States and Japan, raising fears it could eventually impede freedom of navigation and commerce.
The Philippines says next month’s hearings will be crucial to the five-member tribunal’s decision on whether Manila’s complaint has legal merit as well as whether the court has jurisdiction over the case.