Arbitration of sea dispute could take 2-3 years: DFA

Posted at 04/30/2013 6:44 PM

MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday said the arbitration case in the ongoing maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) could take 2 to 3 years.

In an interview, del Rosario admitted that the Philippines resorted to arbitration after China repeatedly committed various infractions and violations of the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and international law regarding the disputed waters.

"Arbitation for us is the last resort after exhaustion of various approaches including political and diplomatic. We believe that arbritation is an open, friendly and durable solution. It's good for all countries. For China, I think we are finally able to clarify with this arbitration China's maritime entitlements. They can say to their constituents: 'This is what international law entitles us to,'" he said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.

Asked how long the arbitration case will last, he said: "It will probably take several years. Maybe 2-3 years."

China has formally rejected the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Philippines to resolve its territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

This is even before the president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) appointed all 5 members of the arbitration panel that will hear the case.

Del Rosario said core issue in the maritime dispute is Beijing's claim "that they have indisputable ownership of the entire South China Sea."

He said that once the arbitral tribunal organizes itself and establishes its rules, it will need to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the case. "After they do that, then they are ready to judge the merits of the case," he said.

Del Rosario said the Philippines has repeatedly told Beijing that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of Philippine relations with China, adding that arbitration is a peaceful and friendly means of settling the dispute.

"I was explainig that for China, it is a chance to clarify their maritime entitlements. For the Philippines, it is a chance to demonstrate what is ours in accordance with international law and to be able to define our fishing rights, our rights to our natural resources and the right to enforce our laws," he said.

"For all of the other nations in this community of nations, it removes the threat of not having freedom of navigation. That's what's good about this arbitartion. Win or lose, we can have that expectation," he added.