Philippines in full force on 1st day at The Hague

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines came out in full force on the first day of its oral hearings at The Hague, The Netherlands, over its historic case against China over the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, July 7, the Philippines argued that the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, has the right to hear the Philippines' case. (READ: Philippines vows to smash China's strongest argument

Eventually, if the tribunal decides it has jurisdiction, the country can proceed to invalidate China's expansive claim over virtually the entire South China Sea. (READ: PH vs China at The Hague: '80% of fish' at stake)

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, who was among the Philippine officials at The Hague, said Solicitor General Florin Hilbay introduced the Philippines' case during Tuesday's hearing. Hilbay also presented the order of speakers. 

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, for his part, "made an impassioned plea for the tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction." Del Rosario cited the importance of the case "not just to our country but to the entire world, owing to its impact on the application of the rule of law in maritime disputes."

The Philippines' chief counsel, Paul Reichler, and Professor Philippe Sands later argued why the tribunal has the right to hear the case. 

This first round of arguments is set to continue Wednesday.

Behind-the-scenes photos

Images published by the Philippine government show a powerhouse team defending the Philippines. 

A photo released by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs showed an 18-member Philippine delegation at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

The photo includes Hilbay and Reichler, an internationally renowned lawyer. 

On Tuesday, Valte tweeted other photos showing the Philippines' last-minute preparations.

Philippine Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr earlier told journalists that Manila is "following its position of seeking a rules-based, diplomatic and peaceful solution."

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China opposed the arbitration.

"China has on many occasions expounded its position by neither accepting nor participating in the arbitrary procedure unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in breach of the agreement repeatedly confirmed with China as well as the Philippines," she said.

"China opposes any moves by the Philippines to initiate and push forward the arbitral proceedings," Hua said.

Still, in an interview with Rappler, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court said China would be forced "one way or another" to comply with the tribunal's ruling. He expects the ruling to favor the Philippines. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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