Philippines confident in getting positive arbitration decision

The Philippine legal team, headed by Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, is set to defend Philippines’ case against China’s claim over virtually the entire West Philippine Sea from July 7 to 13 at The Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Department of Foreign Affairs said today that the government is positive in winning the case.

“We are quite confident that we will get a favorable decision both on the issue of jurisdiction and merits of the case,” DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles Jose told the state media in exclusive interview at the Multi-Sectoral Forum on the West Philippines Sea Issue in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Jose said the oral argument next week will be more on elaboration and clarification of two memorials already submitted. Next week’s oral argument will focus more on issue of jurisdiction.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said that the arbitration tribunal is expected to come up with a decision on jurisdictional issue from August to September. After the jurisdictional issue has been resolved another hearing will be held in November this year.

“And after that, we wait for the decision of the tribunal. We expect the tribunal to decide on the merits with finality in the first quarter of 2016,” Justice Carpio said.

The DFA spokesman was asked what if China will not follow the court’s decision, Jose said “it will be up to the international community to convince China that it would be to its best interest to follow the decision.”

“Let’s say other countries will see China is not following the rules of the game, will they still play the game with someone that does not know how to follow rules? China has very important initiatives – foreign policy initiatives – are they going to allow this issue in the West Philippines Sea to undermine that?” Jose added.