Manila – “This is only the first hurdle against our legal battle with China,” said lawyer and KABAYAN first nominee Atty. Harry Roque, “and we have more to come.”
Atty. Roque was referring to the Hague arbitration court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to hear the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines regarding the West Philippine Sea.
“However,” noted Atty. Roque, “the tribunal ruled that it has jurisdiction only over seven assertions, out of the fifteen which the Philippines has submitted.”
These assertions include territories of Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, Gavin Reef and Mabini Reef, to name a few.
Seven other assertions, the Court noted, will be considered in conjunction with the merits.
“That’s what we have to be prepared for,” Atty. Roque said. “One of our strongest arguments, that China’s imaginary 9-dash line has no legal force and effect under international law, has yet to be decided by the court whether it has jurisdiction or not.”
Basing its claim on ancient title, China claims sovereignty over the entire West Philippine Sea under its proposed 9-dash line. China’s claim was articulated in the 1950s, but resurfaced only recently in 2009, when it submitted an opposition against Vietnam and Malaysia’s application for an extended continental shelf.
Since then, China has employed its ships to patrol the area and has commenced the building of artificial islands in low-tide elevations.
The Philippines, claiming that these actions constitute transgressions on national maritime territory, has since initiated arbitration with China in January 2013 under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China’s insistence on not being bound by the arbitration court has been countered by the court itself, which stated that it has jurisdiction to hear seven of the fifteen submissions by the Philippines against China.
The ruling also directed the Philippines to clarify the content and narrow the scope of its 15th submission regarding its prayer for China to “desist from further unlawful claims and activities.”
“That is why we should celebrate with caution,” Atty. Roque said. “We still have a long way to go.”
Atty. Harry Roque is the former Director of the Institute of International Legal Studies at the UP Law Center, and professor of Constitutional Law at the UP College of Law. He is now running for party-list under KABAYAN, whose main advocacies are KAlusugan (health), PaBAhay (housing) and KabuHAYan (livelihood).
While focusing on using his legal expertise in the national arena to fight for the socio-economic constitutional rights of Filipinos, Atty. Roque remains an active part on the legal battle of the Philippines in its international claims.