January 22, 2013 3:39 pm

Manila takes territorial dispute to court

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The Philippines has taken legal steps to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, asking an international tribunal to intervene in its longstanding dispute with Beijing.

On Tuesday Manila asked the tribunal of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) to order a halt to China’s activities which it says violate its sovereignty and are contrary to international law.

Albert del Rosario, foreign secretary, said the Philippines has informed Beijing of the move through a note verbale delivered to the Chinese ambassador to Manila.

The Chinese embassy did not comment directly but reiterated its previous position that “the disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations”.

The action by the Philippines marks the first time any of the parties involved in overlapping claims in the South China Sea has tried to initiate arbitral proceedings to resolve the dispute.

International law experts in Manila said the Philippine move was fraught with difficulties if China continued to refuse to participate in the process.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” said Jay Batungbacal, director of University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. “Unclos rules require that parties to the dispute agree on the composition of the arbitration panel.”

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