PH to seek provisional measures to stop China reclamation

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PH to seek provisional measures to stop China reclamation
If the United Nations tribunal decides it has jurisdiction over the case, the Philippines may ask the body to temporarily stop China's reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines – If the international arbitral tribunal decides to acquire jurisdiction over the dispute over the South China Sea, the Philippine government is considering seeking provisional measures to compel China to stop its reclamation activities in the controversial seascape, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

Such a move was suggested by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

“That is being considered by our legal team. If we get a favorable ruling on the issue of jurisdiction, perhaps that’s the next thing we will do. But it is still being carefully studied now,” said De Lima on Saturday, July 11.

She returned to the Philippines on Thursday, July 9, from The Hague, Netherlands where the Philippine legal team is attempting to convince the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration that it has jurisdiction over the case.

In making his suggestion, Justice Carpio cited Article 290 (1) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). (READ: EXPLAINER: Philippines’ 5 arguments vs China)

The provision states that if a dispute has been submitted to a tribunal of competent jurisdiction, the tribunal may prescribe any provisional measures which it considers appropriate under the circumstances to preserve the respective rights of the parties to the dispute or to prevent serious harm to the environment, pending the final decision.

Though the move is on their mind, the Philippine team – composed of Solicitor General Florin Hilbay and foreign lawyers – needs to persuade the tribunal that it has the right to tackle the case.

“We are still in jurisdictional issue and this is basic and fundamental. We must first hurdle this jurisdictional issue,” she explained.

De Lima, who was part of the Philippine delegation that presented the case during oral arguments before the tribunal last week, said the tribunal’s decision to hold a second round of oral arguments is a good sign.

It “means they’re really very interested to know more about the position of the Philippines on the issue of jurisdiction,” explained De Lima.

She thinks the Philippines side can count on the “very, very substantive arguments articulated by the external counsels.”

With the fate of the country and future jurisprudence over similar international disputes at stake, De Lima knows the Philippine team is under a lot of pressure.

”We are aware that this is being closely watched by the rest of the world, so we our heads are really held high in this one,” she said. –

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