ITLOS names replacement judge in PHL arbitration case vs. China

June 25, 2013 10:18 pm 

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, June 25 (PNA) -– A replacement judge has been named to complete a five-member United Nations tribunal that will hear a crucial arbitration case filed by the Philippines to challenge China’s massive territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, a Foreign Affairs spokesman said Tuesday.

The members of the arbitral tribunal were first completed in April but Sri Lankan Judge Chris Pinto resigned in May to prevent being accused of impartiality because he had a Filipino wife.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Thomas Mensah of Ghana was named by International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea Shunji Yanai to replace Pinto, completing the cast of judges.

Mensah will also act as President of the arbitral tribunal, which would convene soon to determine whether it can acquire jurisdiction over the Philippine complaint and proceed to look into Manila’s case.

Despite the risks of standing up to China, an Asian economic giant, the Philippines sought arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) last January to question the legality of Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

China has dismissed the Philippine action, which got the backing of several Asian and Western nations like Japan, the United States and European Union.

Other Asian nations including those with territorial disputes with China have not been as aggressive to protect their trade relations with Beijing and avoid incurring China’s ire.

The Philippines is locked in a long-running dispute with China over the South China Sea or also known as West Philippine Sea.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims over the waters where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

China has resisted the Philippines’ move to let a U.N. body intervene in the disputes, saying the Philippines’ case was legally infirm and carried unacceptable allegations.

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states.

The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty, which also allows member-states to seek legal remedy on territorial disputes through mediation.

Manila insisted that arbitration is “a peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement pursuant to international law.”

China, which frowns upon efforts to involve a third party in the disputes, prefers to negotiate one on one with other claimants which would give it advantage because of its sheer size compared to rival claimants which are smaller and have less military force. (PNA)

HBC/MDC/UTB

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