The Philippines will present the country’s case for the first round of oral arguments filed against China over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea this week before the Permanent Court Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will lead the 48-man delegation for the first round of oral arguments which will start this week until Nov. 30, 2015, the DFA said.
The tribunal in The Hague is expected to rule on the Philippines’ case by 2016, the year Philippine President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office.
The Philippine delegation includes Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Supreme Court Associate Justice and former Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, Political Affairs Secretary Ronald Llamas, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, Deputy Executive Sec. Menardo Guevarra, and lead counsel Paul Reichler
The delegation is ready for the oral arguments and is confident of the strength of the evidence in favor of the Philippines.
“The first hearings will focus on the merits or the meat of Manila’s case against Beijing,” the DFA said in a statement.
The Philippines has continuously accused China of continues construction of structures in the disputed reefs which it said violates the United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea.
China claim over the West Philippine Sea which is baseless under the so-called constitution for the oceans, the Unclos, the DFA said.
China is claiming the disputed waters using the so-called 9-dash line, a demarcation that is not found in Unclos.
The Philippines, on the other hand, is arguing that the disputed waters fall within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, within which the Philippines has the exclusive rights to fish.
China claims almost the entire energy-rich South China Sea and has been transforming reefs into artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago and building airfields and other facilities on some of them.
But China clarified that it is not pursuing to militarize the disputed South China Sea despite its massive land reclamation activities in the region.
“It makes no sense to relate construction on islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands to militarization,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a statement posted n its website.
In keeping with the (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China sea) spirit, disputes over territory and jurisdiction rights should be peacefully resolved through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned,” Hong said.
He pointed out that peace and stability in the region should be maintained by China and Association of Southeast Asian Nation countries.
“Together with all parties, the Chinese side will make unremitting efforts for peace and stability of the South China Sea and promote common development and prosperity of countries in the region,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.