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Philippines v. China

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Title: Philippines v. China  
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Subject: China–Philippines relations, South China Sea, Energy law, Law of the sea, Permanent Court of Arbitration
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Philippines v. China

The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China
Court Permanent Court of Arbitration
Full case name An Arbitration before an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea between the Republic of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China
Court membership
Judges sitting

Presiding Arbitrator:
Thomas A. Mensah

Jean-Pierre Cot
Rüdiger Wolfrum
Alfred H. Soons
Stanislaw Pawlak

Philippines v. China is a pending arbitration case concerning the legality of China's "nine-dotted line" claim over the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). On October 29, 2015, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case.[1]


The dispute has been affected by the fact that, after [2]

The [4]

The [4]

Vietnam states that the islands have belonged to it since the 17th century, using historical documents of ownership as evidence.[3] Hanoi began to occupy the westernmost islands during this period.[3]

In the early 1970s, Malaysia joined the dispute by claiming the islands nearest to it.[5]

Brunei also extended its exclusive economic zone, claiming Louisa Reef.[5]

Main claimants

Maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Philippine stance

The Philippines is contending that the "nine-dotted line" claim by China is invalid because it violates the UNCLOS agreements about exclusive economic zones and territorial seas.[6] It says that because most of the features in the South China Sea, such as most of the Spratly Islands, cannot sustain life, they cannot be given their own continental shelf as defined in the convention.[7]

Chinese stance

China refuses to participate in the arbitration, stating that several treaties with the Philippines stipulate that bilateral negotiations be used to resolve border disputes. It also accuses the Philippines of violating the voluntary Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, made in 2002 between ASEAN and China, which also stipulated bilateral negotiations as the means of resolving border and other disputes.[8][9][10] China issued a position paper in December 2014 arguing the dispute was not subject to arbitration because it was ultimately a matter of sovereignty, not exploitation rights.[11] Its refusal will not prevent the Court from proceeding with the case.[12]

Vietnamese stance

On December 11, 2014, Vietnam filed an intervention to the case which makes three statements: Vietnam supports the filing of this case by the Philippines; it rejects China's "nine-dashed line"; and it asks the Court to take note of Vietnam's claims on certain islands such as the Paracels.[13]

Other claims

In May 2009, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Vietnam alone, filed claims to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea with regard to the islands. This was in relation to extending their claimed continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones. The People's Republic of China rejected the claims since those violate the "nine-dotted line". The Philippines challenged them, stating that the claims overlap with the North Borneo dispute. Indonesia made a comment on China's claim by saying that the features are rocks and cannot sustain life, effectively calling its claim invalid. The Philippines echoed Indonesia's claims, further stating that the islands belong to them through geographic proximity. China and Vietnam rejected the Philippines' claim.[14][15]

Brunei sent its own claim through a preliminary submission.[16]

United States position

The United States has stated that it does not take sides on the dispute. However, on December 7, 2014, the State Department released a report concluding that China's dashed-line claim does not accord with the international law of the sea.[17] In June 2015, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel R. Russel held that as both China and the Philippines are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, legally they have to abide by the tribunal's decision.[18]


On July 7, 2015, case hearings began with the Philippines asking the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to invalidate China's claims. The hearings were also attended by observers from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.[19] The case has been compared to Nicaragua v. United States due to similarities of the parties involved such as that a developing country is challenging a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in an arbitral tribunal.[20]

On 29 October 2015, the court ruled that it had the power to hear the case. It agreed to take up seven of the 15 submissions made by Manila, in particular whether Scarborough Shoal and low-tide areas like Mischief Reef can be considered islands. It set aside seven more pointed claims mainly accusing Beijing of acting unlawfully to be considered at the next hearing on the case's merits. It also told Manila to narrow down the scope of its final request that the judges order that "China shall desist from further unlawful claims and activities."[21]


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  2. ^ See also: United Nations Treaty Series 1952 (reg. no. 1832), vol. 136, pp. 45–164.
  3. ^ a b c d e
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b
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  11. ^ Ben Blanchard (July 24, 2015),China also says U.S. is trying to influence Philippines' sea case Reuters.
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  18. ^ Ben Blanchard (July 24, 2015),China says U.S. trying to influence Philippines' sea case Reuters.
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