Backgrounder: Lies of Philippines' Aquino administration on South China Sea

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/7/12 15:29:43

The administration of former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has lied in its unilaterally-initiated arbitration case against China over the South China Sea since 2013.

China has reiterated that it would neither accept nor participate in the arbitration initiated by the Philippines as it necessarily is linked to territorial and maritime disputes, which fall outside the jurisdiction of the arbitration tribunal.

First, the former Philippine government lied by saying that it had no intention of applying for a ruling on sovereignty in the disputed waters in the South China Sea with China, or on maritime delimitation.

China has excluded maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration in a declaration in 2006 citing Article 298 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In an attempt to circumvent the jurisdiction issue, the Philippines had concealed the inevitable link between its claims and the issue of territorial sovereignty, and requested the tribunal rule on the limits of China's maritime entitlements and the lawfulness of China's maritime activities in the South China Sea, but not decide on the territorial or sovereignty disputes.

The truth is, however, there is an inextricable link between the Philippines' claims and the issue of territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.

Without first having determined China's territorial sovereignty over the relevant maritime features in the South China Sea, it would not be possible for the arbitral tribunal to determine what maritime rights China enjoys and the extent to which China may claim maritime rights.

Moreover, it would be impossible, without first ascertaining the sovereignty over the features in question, to determine the entitlements with respect to the maritime zones, and to further decide upon the legality of China's activities at issue.

Second, the former Philippine government lied by saying that it had exhausted all diplomatic means before bringing the arbitration case against China.

Relevant provisions in a series of bilateral instruments and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea represent an agreement between China and the Philippines as defined by Article 281 of the UNCLOS, which excludes the arbitration procedures. The two parties thus have the international obligation to settle their disputes through negotiation, and neither shall resort to compulsory arbitration procedures.

By refusing to engage in consultations and negotiations with China, and by unilaterally initiating the arbitration case, the Philippines ate its words to seek to settle its disputes with China in the South China Sea in good faith, and attempted to obtain unlawful interests in the South China Sea, by levering the United States' meddling in regional affairs.

Third, the Philippines lied about fulfilling its obligations on the exchange of views with the other party involved before unilaterally bringing the arbitration case against China.

According to Article 283 of the UNCLOS, when a dispute arises between states, the parties to the dispute shall proceed expeditiously to an exchange of views regarding its settlement by negotiation or other peaceful means.

The arbitral tribunal, which first weighed its jurisdiction on the case, also played a role and set a bad example by lowering the criteria for the fulfillment of the obligation to exchange views.

In particular, in a move that practically rendered Article 283 of the UNCLOS meaningless, the tribunal concluded that the Philippines had fulfilled the obligation to exchange views regarding the Huangyan Island, only based on the Philippines' note verbale to China dated April 26, 2012 and China's reply three days later.

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