Thursday February 27, 2020


April 4, 2014

Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario announced Sunday that the Philippines had submitted a memorial seeking a ruling on China’s “nine dash line” from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.  Both China and the Philippines have overlapping claims in the sea, which has led to severe tensions between the two countries.  Specifically, China claims a U-shaped swathe of the South China Sea- creating multiple overlaps with areas claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.  The Philippines says China’s claims are illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China and the Philippines are both members.

The decision to submit evidence to a United Nations tribunal hearing comes a day after a Philippine ship evaded Chinese vessels blocking their path to bring supplies to troops stationed on a disputed shoal.  In response, China accused the Philippines of illegally occupying Chinese territory.  “This is a political provocation,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Hong Lei, said at a regular briefing on Monday, adding that the Philippines was “hyping” its “illegal occupation” by filing a case on Sunday with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said more than 40 maps, nearly 4,000 pages of evidence written by a Washington law firm had been submitted to the tribunal.  The submission argues that the Second Thomas Shoal—known as Ayungin in the Philippines and Ren’ai Reef in China—is 105 nautical miles from the Philippines, well inside the 200 nautical miles of a Philippine exclusive economic zone, allowing the Philippines to exploit the waters around the shoal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

On the other hand, China says that the shoal is part of the Nansha Islands, which it says are inside the nine-dash line that runs deep into the waters around Southeast Asia.  The line was first drawn by China’s Nationalist government in the 1940s, using its own historical basis, and has been used by the Communist government to justify its claims to a wide area of islands and seas. In addition to the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia also have sovereignty disputes with China on territories included within China’s nine-dash line.

The cat-and-mouse maneuvers between the Philippines and China have captured international attention for what they might foretell about future conflict in the South China Sea.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged the filing of the memorial on Sunday and said the United States supports the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.  Moreover, President Obama is scheduled to visit the Philippines during a tour of Asian allies in April.  Although this trip does not include China, President Obama is expected to discuss China’s projection of power in the South China Sea and the East China Sea with concerned shareholders in the region.

To publicize its determination to keep the Second Thomas Shoal, the Philippines invited reporters on board the government vessel sent to resupply the Sierra Madre, a rusted warship that has been grounded on the reef since 1999.  The Sierra Madre has been kept in place, with a rotating crew, as a way to reinforce the Philippine claim to the shoal.

China has urged the Philippines not to take further action regarding the South China Sea disputes, threatening it would damage to their bilateral relations. The Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper with nationalist views, said in an editorial on Monday that the “small and weak” Philippines had become the vanguard force of “provoking China.” It warned that China had the ability to force Filipino soldiers off the reef at any time, stating it would be like, “taking thieves away.”

For more information on this dispute, see the following new articles:

The New York Times- Philippines and China in Dispute over Reef

BBC News- Philippines files case to UN in South China Sea Dispute

The Diplomat- The Philippines’s UNCLOS Claim and the PR Battle Against China

Time- The Philippines Wants the U.N. to Step in on its Territorial Disputes with China

China Daily- China cannot tolerate Philippines’ Occupation of Reef

People’s Daily- Philippines Push for Arbitration is Doomed to Failure