MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will face China's counterarguments in July during a crucial hearing set by the arbitral tribunal handling Manila's case against Beijing.
In a news release on Wednesday, April 22, the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration said the hearing will "address the objections to jurisdiction" as stated in China's position paper on the case.
"The arbitral tribunal will conduct a hearing in July 2015 to address the objections to jurisdiction set out in China's position paper. The arbitral tribunal will also consider other matters concerning its jurisdiction and the admissibility of the Philippines' claims," said the tribunal based in The Hague, The Netherlands.
In its position paper in December 2014, China argued that the tribunal has no right to hear the arbitration proceedings. In other words, for China, the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case.
This is China's main argument against the case filed by the Philippines over the disputed waters, parts of which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines, for its part, focuses on the merits of its case. Mainly, Manila wants the tribunal to rule that Beijing's expansive claim over the South China Sea is baseless under international law.
Tribunal awaits China's comments
On Wednesday, the tribunal said it will wait until June 16 for China's comments on the Philippines' supplemental written submission.
The supplemental written submission is the 3,000-page document that the Philippines submitted on March 16, 2015. This adds to the 4,000-page pleading that the Southeast Asian country filed against China on March 30, 2014.
"After receiving any comments that China may make by June 16, 2015, with respect to the Philippines’ supplemental written submission, the arbitral tribunal may also pose further questions to the parties to be addressed in the course of the July hearing," the tribunal said.
The Philippines' lawyer in its case against China, Paul Reichler, earlier said he expects oral hearings between July 7 and 18. He said a ruling is expected by 2016.
The hearing comes as China uses military might to bolster its claim over the disputed waters.
China's most recent show of force is its reclamation work in the South China Sea.
The Philippines says the artificial islands aim to jeopardize the Philippines' case by changing the status quo in the South China Sea before the tribunal issues its ruling.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.