By Michaela del Callar
MANILA, March 30 (PNA) — The Philippines’ arbitration case against China took another leap forward after Manila submitted a crucial document containing volumes of evidence and maps seeking to nullify Beijing’s sweeping claim over the resource-rich South China Sea.
Manila said the document, called the “memorial,” was transmitted electronically to the The Hague-based tribunal, where a five-man panel will review and hear the Philippine complaint, which was first initiated in January 2013.
“Today, the Philippines submitted its memorial to the arbitral tribunal that is hearing the case it brought against the People’s Republic of China under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a press conference.
The memorial will determine if the tribunal has jurisdiction over the Philippine case or if the complaint has legal basis. The hard copy of the document will be forwarded to the tribunal on Monday.
“With firm conviction, the ultimate purpose of our memorial is our national interest,” Del Rosario said, adding “it is about defending what is legitimately ours, securing our children’s future, guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations and helping preserve regional peace, security and stability.”
“It is about seeking not just any kind of resolution but a just and durable solution grounded on international law,” Del Rosario said.
Philippine officials declined to discuss details of the memorial nor provide a copy pending a review by the tribunal.
Del Rosario said the memorial contains “ten volumes with maps,” has “nearly 4,000 pages,” and will strengthen the Philippines’ case.
“(It) contains the Philippine analysis of the applicable law and the relevant evidence, and demonstrates that the arbitral tribunal has jurisdiction over all the claims made by the Philippines,” he said.
Del Rosario stressed that “every claim is meritorious.”“It sets out the specific relief sought by the Philippines in regard to each of its claims, and shows why it is entitled to such relief.”
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said the incidents of harassment in Ayungin Shoal, a feature off Manila’s western coast facing the South China Sea, was included in the Philippine case.
“The Philippines amended its statement of claim including Ayungin as part of the arbitration,” Jardeleza said.Tensions over Ayungin Shoal – called Ren’ai Reef by China and known internationally as Second Thomas Shoal – ratcheted three weeks ago when Chinese government ships prevented two Philippine civilian vessels which was sailing toward the disputed rocky outcrop.
Another incident of harassment occurred over the weekend, according to the Philippine military, when its naval vessels transporting food, supplies and fresh Filipino troops to a grounded Philippine Navy ship manned by about a dozen Marines were blocked anew by Chinese Coast Guard ships.
The decaying Filipino vessel served as a military outpost and a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.
Del Rosario said it is not known if China will file a counter-memorial, which is the usual practice in arbitration. Beijing has declared that it does not recognize the process.
The arbitral panel will decide on its next course of action upon receipt of the Philippine memorial.China insists indisputable sovereignty over the waters, citing history and ancient maps as the basis of its sprawling claim.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the South China Sea, of which some parts included in Manila’s territory have been re-named West Philippine Sea. (Philippine News Agency)