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The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction over the Philippines’ case against China, which seeks to declare Beijing’s sweeping claims over the disputed South China Sea illegal and excessive.
In a statement dated October 29, the tribunal rejected China’s position that it can not assume jurisdiction over the case because it deals with sovereignty over the features in the resource-rich waters, and therefore beyond the court’s jurisdiction.
“The award does not decide any aspect of the merits of the parties’ dispute. In its award, the tribunal has held that both the Philippines and China are parties to the (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and bound by its provisions on the settlement of disputes,” the statement said.
“The tribunal has also held that China’s decision not to participate in these proceedings does not deprive the tribunal of jurisdiction and that the Philippines’ decision to commence arbitration unilaterally was not an abuse of the convention’s dispute settlement procedures,” it added.
It likewise rejected the argument set out in China’s position paper that its dispute with the Philippines is actually about the delimitation of a maritime boundary between them and therefore excluded from the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
Further hearing on the merits of the Philippines’ claims will be convened by the tribunal soon, it added.
“In consultation with the parties, the tribunal has provisionally set the dates for the merits hearing,” it said, adding that it will not be open to the public.
However, it said the tribunal will consider requests from interested states to send small delegations of observers.
The tribunal expects to render its award on the merits and remaining jurisdictional issues in 2016. -NB, GMA News.
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