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8 January 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippines said its move to seek arbitration before an international tribunal underscores its desire to define its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea in a peaceful manner.

“We have always been asked why we have resorted to arbitration. Our answer is simple. International law is the great equalizer,” Ambassador Cuisia said in his remarks during a reception he hosted on Wednesday night for Washington-based journalists led by National Press Club President Myron Belkind.

“By taking the legal route, we are showing the world that States have other viable options to resolving disputes other than in an asymmetrical negotiation where the big and militarily strong nation will dominate the smaller nation in the negotiating table,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

He said Manila sees the arbitration case as a model for other smaller States in a similar situation to consider the dispute settlement mechanisms under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or the United Nations Charter as a way of resolving disputes in a peaceful manner.

It could be recalled that the Philippines filed an arbitration case in 2013 as part of its efforts to clarify its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea and formally submitted its memorial to the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague on 30 March 2014.

China, which had laid claim to practically the entire South China Sea, had indicated that it will not participate in the proceedings but it nonetheless published on December 7 its position paper on the arbitration case and submitted the same to the tribunal.

Ambassador Cuisia said Washington presented its own study on China’s maritime claims that supports the Philippines position on the need for peaceful clarification of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

“Studies such as the one produced by the US contribute to the substantive international literature that supports the primacy and utility of UNCLOS in the determination of maritime entitlements and the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes,” he said.

Ambassador Cuisia added that the recent statement issued by Vietnam on the arbitration case is helpful in terms of promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful and nonviolent solutions to the South China Sea claims based on international law. ###