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PH studying possible new case vs. China


Metro Manila, September 21 ------ The Philippines is studying the possibility of taking China to court again, the government said, as it considers its legal options following the reported massive damage to coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea suspected to be the East Asian giant's doing.


According to Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, his office has begun studying the courses of actions the country can take over issues in the contested waters. Among them is filing a fresh complaint before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands. "Filing a new complaint before the PCA is indeed one legal option that will be covered by the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) study," Guevarra told CNN Philippines in a text message.


In 2013, the country under then President Benigno Aquino III, filed a case before an international tribunal created under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), with the PCA serving as registry. The case challenged Beijing's claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, particularly to areas within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). After three and a half years, the PCA upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction in parts of its EEZ that China contests.


The court also ruled that Beijing's "nine-dash line" claim had no legal basis. Guevarra, however, stressed that the OSG is still in the fact-finding and data-gathering stage of its study and that other options are also being studied. "Until we have completed our inquiry and evaluated the merits of each and every legal option, it will be premature to say that we will recommend a specific course of action, such as filing a new complaint against China before an international tribunal," he explained. "These matters require a lot of prudence and circumspection," Guevarra added.


Over the weekend, the military said Beijing could be harvesting corals at Rozul Reef (also known as Iroquois Reef), as it observed rampant damage in the area which is frequented by Chinese maritime militia and fishing vessels. The Philippine Coast Guard later said that the "severe damage" to the marine environment and coral reefs was also spotted at Escoda Shoal. It noted that no other foreign vessels aside from those from Beijing were recently seen in these two areas, which are both within the country's EEZ.


Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal also argued there is good reason to believe that the vessels behind the damage are from China, noting there is an entire industry in Hainan that profits from the harvested corals and other raw materials. On Tuesday, the Department of Justice said it recommends the filing of cases against Beijing over the matter, which it called "a very ripe case" for adjudication in an international court.


Source: cnnphilippines.com


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