Philippines v. China

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The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China
Court Permanent Court of Arbitration
Full case name An Arbitration before an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea between the Republic of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China
Court membership
Judges sitting

Presiding Arbitrator:
Template:Country data GHA Thomas A. Mensah

23x15px Jean-Pierre Cot
23x15px Rüdiger Wolfrum
Template:Country data NED Alfred H. Soons
Template:Country data POL Stanislaw Pawlak

Philippines v. China is a pending arbitration case concerning the legality of China's "nine-dotted line" claim over the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). On October 29, 2015, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case.[1]


The dispute has been affected by the fact that, after Japan renounced all claims to the Spratly Islands and other conquered islands and territories in the Treaty of San Francisco and Treaty of Peace with the Republic of China (Taiwan), it did not indicate successor states.[2]

The Philippines bases its claim on its geographical proximity to the Spratly Islands.[3] In 1956, the dispute escalated after Filipino national Tomas Cloma and his followers settled on the islands and declared the territory as "Freedomland", now known as Kalayaan, in favor of occupation by the Philippines.[4]

The People's Republic of China claims it is entitled to the Paracel and Spratly Islands because they were seen as integral parts of the Ming dynasty.[3] China and Taiwan have these same territorial claims.[3] Taiwan took control of the largest island in the group, called Itu Aba.[4]

Vietnam states that the islands have belonged to it since the 17th century, using historical documents of ownership as evidence.[3] Hanoi began to occupy the westernmost islands during this period.[3]

In the early 1970s, Malaysia joined the dispute by claiming the islands nearest to it.[5]

Brunei also extended its exclusive economic zone, claiming Louisa Reef.[5]

Main claimants[edit]

File:South China Sea vector.svg
Maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Philippine stance[edit]

The Philippines is contending that the "nine-dotted line" claim by China is invalid because it violates the UNCLOS agreements about exclusive economic zones and territorial seas.[6] It says that because most of the features in the South China Sea, such as most of the Spratly Islands, cannot sustain life, they cannot be given their own continental shelf as defined in the convention.[7]

Chinese stance[edit]

China refuses to participate in the arbitration, stating that several treaties with the Philippines stipulate that bilateral negotiations be used to resolve border disputes. It also accuses the Philippines of violating the voluntary Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, made in 2002 between ASEAN and China, which also stipulated bilateral negotiations as the means of resolving border and other disputes.[8][9][10] China issued a position paper in December 2014 arguing the dispute was not subject to arbitration because it was ultimately a matter of sovereignty, not exploitation rights.[11] Its refusal will not prevent the Court from proceeding with the case.[12]

Vietnamese stance[edit]

On December 11, 2014, Vietnam filed an intervention to the case which makes three statements: Vietnam supports the filing of this case by the Philippines; it rejects China's "nine-dashed line"; and it asks the Court to take note of Vietnam's claims on certain islands such as the Paracels.[13]

Other claims[edit]

In May 2009, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Vietnam alone, filed claims to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea with regard to the islands. This was in relation to extending their claimed continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones. The People's Republic of China rejected the claims since those violate the "nine-dotted line". The Philippines challenged them, stating that the claims overlap with the North Borneo dispute. Indonesia made a comment on China's claim by saying that the features are rocks and cannot sustain life, effectively calling its claim invalid. The Philippines echoed Indonesia's claims, further stating that the islands belong to them through geographic proximity. China and Vietnam rejected the Philippines' claim.[14][15]

Brunei sent its own claim through a preliminary submission.[16]

United States position[edit]

The United States has stated that it does not take sides on the dispute. However, on December 7, 2014, the State Department released a report concluding that China's dashed-line claim does not accord with the international law of the sea.[17] In June 2015, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel R. Russel held that as both China and the Philippines are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, legally they have to abide by the tribunal's decision.[18]


On July 7, 2015, case hearings began with the Philippines asking the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to invalidate China's claims. The hearings were also attended by observers from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.[19] The case has been compared to Nicaragua v. United States due to similarities of the parties involved such as that a developing country is challenging a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in an arbitral tribunal.[20]

On 29 October 2015, the court ruled that it had the power to hear the case. It agreed to take up seven of the 15 submissions made by Manila, in particular whether Scarborough Shoal and low-tide areas like Mischief Reef can be considered islands. It set aside seven more pointed claims mainly accusing Beijing of acting unlawfully to be considered at the next hearing on the case's merits. It also told Manila to narrow down the scope of its final request that the judges order that "China shall desist from further unlawful claims and activities."[21]


  1. Panda, Ankit (30 October 2015). "Philippines v. China: Court Rules Favorably on Jurisdiction, Case Will Proceed". The Diplomat. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  2. "Treaty of Peace with Japan". Taiwan Documents Project. 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2013.  See also: United Nations Treaty Series 1952 (reg. no. 1832), vol. 136, pp. 45–164.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Q&A: South China Sea dispute". BBC News. May 15, 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Spratly Islands Conflicting Claims". Global Security. 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Valencia, Mark J.; Van Dyke, Jon M.; Ludwig, Noel A. (1999). Sharing the Resources of the South China Sea. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 36–38. ISBN 9780824818814. 
  6. "The Republic of the Philippines v. The People's Republic of China". Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  7. Del Cappar, Michaela (April 25, 2013). "ITLOS completes five-man tribunal that will hear PHL case vs. China". GMA News One. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  8. Torode, Greg (2013-09-27). "Philippines South China Sea legal case against China gathers pace". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  9. "China rejects arbitration on disputed islands in S.China Sea CCTV News - CNTV English". Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  10. "DECLARATION ON THE CONDUCT OF PARTIES IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA".  External link in |publisher= (help)
  11. Ben Blanchard (July 24, 2015),China also says U.S. is trying to influence Philippines' sea case Reuters.
  12. Peterson, Luke Eric (August 28, 2013). "Philippines-China UNCLOS arbitration moving forward without Chinese participation". Kluwer Arbitration Blog. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  13. "Bloomberg Business". Bloomberg. 
  14. "Submissions to the Commission: Joint submission by Malaysia and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam". United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. May 3, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  15. "CLCS submissions and claims in the South China Sea, by Robert C. Beckman & Tara Davenport". August 11, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  16. "Brunei Darussalam's Preliminary Submission concerning the Outer Limits of its Continental Shelf" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  17. "LIMITS IN THE SEAS No. 143 CHINA MARITIME CLAIMS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA" (PDF). State Department. Retrieved January 21, 2015. 
  18. Ben Blanchard (July 24, 2015),China says U.S. trying to influence Philippines' sea case Reuters.
  19. "Philippines asks tribunal to invalidate China's sea claims". The Washington Post. 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  20. Esmaquel, Paterno II (July 11, 2015). "PH lawyer vs China: 'Giant slayer' who defeated US". Rappler. Retrieved July 12, 2015. 
  21. "World tribunal to hear South China Sea case". Bangkok Post. 30 October 2015. 

External links[edit]