In an expected turn of events, some 300 Chinese legal experts unanimously agreed to refute the territorial dispute unilaterally filed by the Philippines before the international tribunal.
The two countries have been embroiled in territorial dispute over the vast South China Sea to which China claims 90 percent of the area. Other than the Philippines, other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, and Taiwan are also claiming portions of the South China Sea within their exclusive economic zones (EEC).
In a meeting recently held, which gathered more than 300 legal experts in China, the experts claimed that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has no jurisdiction over the case, the Chinese news outfit CCTV reported.
It can be recalled that the Philippines filed a territorial dispute before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which is expected to dispense a verdict over the same case either later this month or early June, is the same court that hears cases concerning disputes in the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as earlier reported by the Morning News USA.
The Chinese experts present in the meeting all echoed the same sentiment: China should not participate in the same case as it has earlier decreed. The experts also questioned the legitimacy of the case lodged by the Philippines against China.
Since the Philippines brought the case before an international tribunal, the Chinese government has been vocal that it will ignore whatever decision the court might dispense.
“That is because the tribunal that arbitrates maritime disputes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, has no jurisdiction over Manila’s claims. And the country’s unilateral initiation of the arbitration broke the agreement with us that the disputes should be resolved through bilateral negotiations,” China University of Political Science & Law professor Ma Chenyuan was quoted as saying by the CCTV News.
Even though China is one of the signatory countries to the UNCLOS, the Chinese experts also emphasized that the decision of the international tribunal regarding territorial disputes is not binding, especially since that there have been several cases where decisions from the same court has been ignored in the past.
Ouyang Yujing, director-general of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, further argued that no verdict can change history whereby China is the sole sovereign over the South China Sea, including the surrounding waters.
“As for issues on maritime delineation, the UNCLOS allows optional exceptions to the applicability of compulsory dispute settlement proceedings such as compulsory arbitration. China made a declaration in 2006 excluding disputes concerning maritime delimitation from arbitral proceedings,” Yujing was quoted as saying by The Australian in a related report.
He added that no matter what verdict the arbitration case will be, it is unlawful and invalid.