4:26 am | Friday, April 26th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines—The panel of five international arbitrators that would hear the Philippines’ case against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) has been completed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said that Judge Shunji Yanai, president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos), had appointed the last three members of the panel.
“That means the case is moving and, as expected, we are hoping that this case that we filed in the tribunal will proceed as soon as possible,” said Hernandez in a press briefing.
In a letter dated April 24, Yanai informed Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, head of the Philippine legal team pursuing the case, that the panel had been completed.
The newly appointed arbitrators are Judge Chris Pinto (Sri Lanka), who will serve as panel president, and Itlos judges Jean-Pierre Cot (France) and Alfred Soons (The Netherlands).
In March, Yanai appointed Polish Itlos Judge Stanislaw Pawlak to join his fellow Judge Rudiger Wolfrum (Germany) in the panel. The Philippines nominated Wolfrum to the panel upon filing its case on Jan. 22.
The Philippines filed the case against China in an ad hoc arbitral panel in hopes of halting its incursions into established Philippine maritime borders in the West Philippine Sea. The move also sought to invalidate China’s nine-dash line claim in the waters, which the Philippines asserts encroaches on its exclusive economic zone.
China has rejected the proceedings, citing “indisputable sovereignty” over the potentially resource-rich territories. The process will, however, continue even without the participation of China, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
The Itlos president took on the task of completing the panel upon China’s refusal to take part in the proceedings. Parties involved are supposed to nominate their panel members.
“The five-member arbitral tribunal will organize itself and establish its own rules. They will establish whether they have jurisdiction to hear the case,” said Hernandez.
“We are very confident that this will be taken up by the tribunal and that the tribunal will award us as far as our maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea is concerned and declare that China’s nine-dash line claim has no validity as far as international law and Unclos is concerned,” he said.
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