China’s occupation of Bajo de Masinloc gave PH no choice but go to U.N.So far, all that Beijing has said of the Philippines’ suit asking the United Nations to declare as illegal its nine-dash-line map is that it “will complicate the issue.”
China reiterated its earlier denunciation of the Philippines’ “illegal occupation” of some islands in the South China Sea, referred to in the Philippines as “West Philippine Sea.”
Sources with contact in Beijing said China’s Foreign Ministry was “stunned” that the Philippines pushed through what they have been talking about for almost two years now.
China is most concerned of its international respectability. This suit, the first against China at the U.N., does not augur well for a new leadership that would come in next month.
China has been consistent in its position not to “internationalize” the issue of conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea and over Bajo de Masinloc (Huangyan Island to the Chinese) and to deal the issue bilaterally.
The Philippines defied China, the emerging world superpower, last Tuesday and decided to ask the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal to declare the nine-dash line map illegal.
China submitted on May 7, 2009 before the U.N. Commission on the Law of the Sea the “nine-dash line” map, so called because instead of coordinates, it shows a series of nine dashes or dotted lines forming a ring around the South China Sea area, which China claims is part of its territory.
The “nine-dash line map” puts 90 percent of the whole South China Sea under Chinese jurisdiction Bajo de Masinloc, 124 nautical miles away from Zambales and clearly within the Philippines 200 NM exclusiove economic zone (it’s 467 nautical miles from mainland China) and Spratlys group of islands which are also claimed wholly and partly by the Philippines,Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The DFA said it is not the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea or ITLOS that the Philippine lodged its suit. It is before the Arbitral Tribunal under Article 287 and Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS under which it does not need China to agree to the arbitration.
The process has started with the handing by the DFA last Tuesday to Ambassador Ma Keqing of the note verbale on the U.N. suit and a copy of the 19-page Notification and Statement of Claim.
Sources close to Malacanang and the DFA said the tipping point for the Philippines was the declaration by Chinese Foreign Vice Minister Fu Ying later last year that they have no intention of withdrawing their three remaining ships in Bajo de Masinloc which is tantamount to their occupation of a Philippine territory.
In the Philippine Notification and Statement of Claim, it used the word “seize” in describing the Bajo de Masinloc incident:
Paragraph 20 states: “In 2012, China seized six small rocks that protrude above sea level within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, unlawfully claimed an exaggerated maritime zone around these features, and wrongfully prevented the Philippines from navigating, ort enjoying access to the living resources within this zone, even though it forms part of the Philippines’ EEZ.
“These half dozen protrusions, which are known collectively as Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc n the Philippines; Huang Yan Dao in China) are located approximately 120 M west of the the Philippine island of Luzon……”
Paragraph 21 states, “Until April 2012, Philippine fishing vessels routinely fished in this area, which is within the Philippines’ 200 M exclusive economic zone. Since then, China has prevented the Philippines from fishing at Scarborough Shoal or in its vicinity, and undertaken other activities inconsistent with the Convention. Only Chinese vessels are now allowed to fish in these waters, and have harvested, inter alia, endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and giant clams which are protected by both international and Philippine law.”
China gave the Philippines’ no choice.