The arbitration court hearing the dispute between China and the Philippines over the fiercely contested South China Sea will deliver its decision on July 12, it said in a statement late Wednesday night.
In 2013, Manila went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague seeking to clarify its economic entitlements under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and declare void China’s “nine-dash line” claim on the South China Sea.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about US$5 trillion worth of trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
The maritime territorial issue pits China against several Southeast Asian countries and has escalated tension in the region.
The court had “informed the parties” that “the tribunal will issue its award on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at approximately 11am [Central European Time]”, the institution based in The Hague said.
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China has not taken part in the proceedings and rejects the court’s jurisdiction in the matter. It argues territorial issues are not subject to the convention, and that as early as 2006 it declared – in line with Unclos – to exclude disputes concerning maritime delimitation from mandatory dispute-settlement procedures.
The Philippines has asked the court to rule on three aspects relating to neighbouring countries’ competing claims in the sea.
First, it wants the court to rule whether the Philippines’ territorial claims in the region under the 1982 convention should be placed above China’s historic claims to the same area, known as the “nine-dash line”.
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Second, it wants a ruling on whether the disputed islands are actually “islands, rocks, low-tide elevations, or submerged banks”. The ruling could shore up the Philippines’ claims to the region by making it their Exclusive Economic Zone.
Third, it wants the court to rule whether China has infringed on the Philippines’ sovereign rights through China’s construction and fishing activities.
China has said 47 countries support its refusal to recognise the case. Its diplomats have written editorials in regional newspapers denouncing what has been seen widely as a bold move by Manila, with scope for repercussions.
Incoming Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, said on Monday he would not discuss the case until a ruling was made.
Additional reporting by Reuters