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MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), as the state’s primary counsel, is studying the option of filing another complaint against China over the destruction of coral reef within Philippine territory.
“The OSG is still studying various legal options on numerous WPS [West Philippine Sea] issues. one of these options is to file a new complaint before the permanent court of arbitration. The OSG has not made a definitive recommendation to adopt any particular option pending completion of the OSG study,” Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra told Rappler on Thursday, September 21.
Guevarra also clarified that the Philippine government is still on a fact-finding and data-gathering stage with regard to a possible complaint over the reef destruction.
“If the forum chosen is the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, then that complaint would be the second. Diplomatic protests are a totally different matter,” the solicitor general added.
On Saturday, September 16, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) raised alarm over the suspected massive illegal harvesting of corals in Rozul Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
AFP Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos said they would increase the country’s military presence in the country’s territory at the height of activities of Chinese vessels. The Westcom chief added that the suspected harvesting violates the Philippines’ sovereign rights, including the country’s rightful claim over its resources within its exclusive economic zone.
Two days later, on September 18, the Philippine Coast Guard, which leads maritime patrols in Philippine waters, said they found extensive damage in the marine environment frequently visited by Chinese ships.
In 2016, the Philippines won its case against China after an arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the country, invalidating China’s 9-dash line claim in the West Philippine Sea. The tribunal “concluded that, as between the Philippines and China, there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘9-dash line.’”
But the Philippines has not always been successful in international courts. In 2019, three years after its victory at the Hague, then-International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda junked the Philippine case against China for violations in the West Philippine Sea, citing lack of jurisdiction.
The ICC case filed by the late former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales cited the harassment of Filipino fisherfolk by Chinese ships, and the damage caused by the Chinese to the country’s maritime environment. – Rappler.com