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Sea dispute case starts

  • Written by Cristina Lee-Pisco With EMontano
  • Published in Top Stories
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Featured Sea dispute case starts

Philippines makes impassioned plea at The Hague

THE Philippines has begun presenting its arguments in the dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.

On the first day of the oral arguments, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay introduced the case and presented the order of speakers for the Philippines.

He was followed by DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario who explained the reason for the Philippines’ decision to seek arbitration in the current maritime dispute with China and made an impassioned plea for the tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction because of the importance of the case, not only to the region but to the entire world, and its impact on the application of the rule of law in maritime disputes.

Chief counsel for the Philippines Paul Reichler of the US-based Foley Hoag law firm presented the justification for the tribunal’s jurisdiction over the Philippine claims under UNCLOS.
Another foreign legal expert, Prof. Philippe Sands, said the Philippines did not raise questions of sovereignty over land or raise questions of maritime delimitation, issues that are beyond the scope of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.
On the second day of the oral arguments, the Philippines’ lawyers will further explain how the Philippine case did not fall under the specific UNCLOS exemptions which would preclude the tribunal from hearing the case.
They will present strong arguments regarding the strength of the Philippines’ environmental and fishing claims against China.
The Philippine legal team is expected to summarize the Philippines’ case and reply to questions to be raised by the tribunal before the oral arguments conclude on July 13.

Foreign lawyers
Malacañang yesterday defended the hiring of foreign lawyers to argue the Philippine case at The Hague.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told Malacañang reporters that the Philippines wants to get the “best” lawyers and experts on the subject matter to appear before the tribunal, stressing “it will be foolhardy not to hire experts.”
“We have the knowledge, but insofar as appearing before the international tribunal... You know, you get the best persons that you can hire for that. When you call on international arbitration, for instance, in other cases that the Philippine government has appeared before, we’ve always hired experts on those issues,” Lacierda told Palace reporters yesterday.
“It will be foolhardy for us not to hire experts... those who have experience appearing before those tribunals. So, we are putting our best foot forward, both international and domestic,” he added.
Lacierda slammed lawyer Harry Roque who criticized the hiring of foreign lawyers.
“Hindi dapat kinukuwenta o tinatawaran ang suporta ng nagkakaisang pamahalaan para sa pinaglalaban ng ating bansa. I think that speaks, that spells out the position of the Philippines here. We have seen how important this is for us. Why do [we] need international counsel? I think Mr. Roque is trying to be specious in his statements,” he said.      

China snub
As expected, China did not participate at the start of the arbitration case in The Hague.
In a regular press conference in Beijing, Chinese Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said “China has, on many occasions, expounded its position of neither accepting nor participating in the arbitral proceeding unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in breach of the agreement that has been repeatedly reaffirmed with China as well as the Philippines’ undertakings in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).”
Hua said China opposes any move by the Philippines to initiate and push forward the arbitral proceeding.
She stressed “China’s position has been clearly stated in the Position Paper of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines released in last December.”