PH strikes back, files pleading vs China

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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(3rd UPDATE) 'It is about securing our children's future,' Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says as Manila files a 4,000-page memorial

DAVID VS GOLIATH. A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Philippines struck back at its Goliath on Sunday, March 30, as it filed a historic pleading against China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Dwarfed by China in terms of military strength, the Philippines submitted the nearly 4,000-page document, called a memorial, to end decades of alleged bullying by the rising superpower. It sent the memorial to a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal incidentally after China on Saturday, March 29, harassed a Filipino ship again.

“With firm conviction, the ultimate purpose of the memorial is our national interest. It is about defending what is legitimately ours. It is about securing our children’s future. It is about guaranteeing freedom of navigation for all nations. It is about helping to preserve regional peace, security, and stability,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a media briefing Sunday.

“And finally,” Del Rosario said, “it is about seeking not just any kind of resolution but a just and durable solution grounded on international law.”

The Philippines cannot publicize the memorial, however, until the arbitral tribunal gives its go-signal.

It filed the memorial in the face of incentives from China, as well as possible sanctions from one of the Philippines’ biggest trading partners.

China, for its part, on Sunday said the tribunal has no right to hear the case in the first place. (READ: China rejects PH case, invokes int’l law)

10 volumes long

CHALLENGING CHINA. A much smaller Philippine ship arrives at the disputed Ayungin Shoal. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

Del Rosario said the memorial is composed of 10 volumes.

He said Volume I, which is 270 pages long, analyzes laws and evidence in relation to the case.

It also shows that the arbitral tribunal “has jurisdiction” over the case – a major question that the Philippines needs to address. It proves the merits of the Philippines’ every claim.

Volumes II to X, on the other hand, contain “the documentary evidence and maps that support the Philippines’ claims.” These comprise the longest part of the memorial – more than 3,700 pages.

The memorial comes with “all documentary, witness, expert, and other evidence” that the Philippines intends to rely on, according to the Rules of Procedure set by the designated arbitral tribunal supported by the United Nations.

It also has as attachments the “legal authorities (such as treaties, laws, decrees, or judicial decisions) cited in their submissions.”

No escape for China

PHILIPPINES' GUARDIAN. An aerial view shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert their nation's sovereignty over Ayungin Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China, on March 29, 2014. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

While Beijing has rejected the arbitral proceedings, it has no escape from Manila’s pleading. China will receive it in any case.

Like the arbitral tribunal, China will find the memorial on its doorstep through e-mail and courier. The hard copies should come with “a complete electronic copy” in a USB flash drive or another electronic device, “if possible in searchable Adobe PDF.”

Protested in the Philippines’ memorial, China’s claims encroach on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This is an area 200 nautical miles from a country’s baselines within which a state has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others. (READ: What’s at stake in our case vs China)

Included in the document is the Philippines’ claim over Ayungin Shoal.

This is a disputed area that has seen China harassing Philippine vessels for at least 11 times since 2013. Such incidents include a case of harassment on Saturday.

On that day, China tried to drive away a Philippine contingent that aimed to resupply provisions and personnel onboard the BRP Sierra Madre, the Philippines’ grounded ship in Ayungin. 

In the face of bigger Chinese ships, the Filipinos succeeded. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email