Philippines: China’s ’10-dash’ line won’t affect case

Paterno Esmaquel II
In the first place, China hasn't officially 'communicated' the 10-dash line to the international community, a maritime law expert tells Rappler

NEW MAP. A new Chinese map shows a 10-dash line to claim virtually the entire South China Sea. Screen grab from edited by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Dismissed by the Philippines as a mere “drawing,” China’s 10-dash line map will not affect the historic case filed by Manila against Beijing even if it involves a 9-dash line, the Philippine government said.

To begin with, China has not officially “communicated” this 10-dash line to the international community, an expert added.

In an e-mail to Rappler, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose pointed out that the Philippines, in its arbitration case, is “seeking a clarification on the maritime entitlements of coastal states” based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Philippines wants a ruling that says the Philippines is entitled to, among others, a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), within which it has the exclusive rights to use marine resources, for example, to fish.

Jose said if the tribunal rules in the Philippines’ favor, “then it does not really matter whether it’s a 9-dash or 10-dash line claim because all of China’s excessive and groundless claims will be nullified.”

The DFA spokesman issued this statement after China’s state-run Xinhua news agency published a photo taken on Monday, June 23, that shows China’s 10-dash line map.

The map lengthens the usual 9-dash line that China uses to claim virtually the entire South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea.

Not ‘officially communicated’

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, added that the 10-dash line map “doesn’t carry that much weight.” The 10th dash near Taiwan even lies outside the South China Sea.

When asked if China’s 10-dash line supersedes its 9-dash line, Batongbacal told Rappler: “In the sense that it’s a new map that they’re issuing, yes. But in terms of legal impact, as far as the international community is concerned, the only one that they have been given is the one that was issued in 2009, included in a note verbale.”

He referred to China’s submission of a 9-dash line map to the United Nations in 2009.

“That is the one that has been officially communicated to the international community,” he said of this 2009 document, as he compared the 10-dash line map to a primer or brochure.

The Philippines and other countries have officially protested the 9-dash line. (READ: What’s at stake in our case vs China)

In its case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Philippines requests an award that “declares that China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea based on its so-called ‘9-dash line’ are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid.”

‘It’s the actions, not the line’

Batongbacal added, “Merely drawing a line does not, by itself, mean anything. It’s all the actions that accompany that line, not the line itself.” (READ: PH on China: Judge us by actions, not words)

“So you can call China being expansionist and ambitious not because they draw maps, but because of everything that they’re doing. And the drawing of the map is only one small part of it, because just drawing a map does not have any legal effect in international law. All maps are self-serving instruments anyway,” he said.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr on Thursday, June 26, dismissed China’s 9- and 10-dash lines as mere “drawings” on which maritime claims cannot be based.

He pointed out that it even used to be an 11-dash line during the time of Chiang Kai-shek, who headed China’s nationalist government from 1928 to 1949.

“To put it simply, they’ve just been drawing all those. All those drawings have been superseded by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Coloma said in Filipino.

The Philippines, in any case, denounced this map as a display of China’s “ambitious expansionism.” –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

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