RP v China Digest
RP v China Case Digest FACTS: The Republic of the Philippines(Philippines) instituted an arbitration case against the People’s Republic of China(China) under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(Convention or UNCLOS) since both parties have ratified the Convention. However, China have consistently stated its view on the lack of jurisdiction of the Tribunal on the matter. The arbitration concerns disputed between the parties regarding the legal basis of maritime rights and entitlements in the South China Sea, the status of certain geographic features in the South China Sea, and the lawfulness of certain actions taken by China in the South China Sea. ISSUES: 1. WON the Tribunal has jurisdiction. 2. Whether China have claims under historical rights and the “ninedash-line” 3. What is the status of features in the South China Sea 4. WON the activities of China in the South China Sea is lawful. 5. WON the actions of China since the commencement of arbitration have aggravated and extended the dispute. 6. What is China’s future conduct? RULING: 1. Article 288 of the Conventions states that “In the event of a dispute as to whether a court or tribunal has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by decision of that court or tribunal.” 2. With respect to Submission No. 1, for the reasons set out above, the Tribunal concludes that, as between the Philippines and China, the Convention defines the scope of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, which may not extend beyond the limits imposed therein. the Tribunal concludes that, as between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention. The Tribunal concludes that the Convention superseded any historic rights or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction in excess of the limits imposed therein.
Features that are above water at high tide generate an entitlement to at least a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, whereas features that are submerged at high tide do not. The Tribunal noted that the reefs have been heavily modified by land reclamation and construction, recalled that the Convention classifies features on their natural condition, and relied on historical materials in evaluating the features. Article 121 establishes a regime of islands as follows: Article 121 Regime of Islands 1. An island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide. 2. Except as provided for in paragraph 3, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf of an island are determined in accordance with the provisions of this Convention applicable to other land territory. 3. Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. The tribunal found that although there were evidence of transient habitation on the features, there was no showing of permanent habitation that the features could support a stable community therefore they are considered rocks. Thus, Having found that none of the features claimed by China was
capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.
4. the Tribunal finds that China has, by virtue of the conduct of Chinese law enforcement vessels in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal, created serious risk of collision and danger to Philippine vessels and personnel. The Tribunal finds China to have violated Rules 2, 6, 7, 8, 15, and 16 of the COLREGS and, as a consequence, to be in breach of Article 94 of the Convention. 5. yes, it has. (a) China has aggravated the Parties’ dispute concerning their respective rights and entitlements in the area of Mischief Reef by building a large artificial island on a low-tide elevation located in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. (b) China has aggravated the Parties’ dispute concerning the protection and preservation of the marine environment at Mischief Reef by inflicting permanent, irreparable harm to the coral reef habitat of that feature. (c) China has extended the Parties’ dispute concerning the protection and preservation of the marine environment by commencing large-scale island-building and construction works at Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef. (d) China has aggravated the Parties’ dispute concerning the status of maritime features in the Spratly Islands and their capacity to generate entitlements to maritime zones by permanently destroying evidence of the natural condition of Mischief Reef, Cuarteron
Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef.
6.The Tribunal considers it beyond dispute that both Parties are obliged to comply with the Convention, including its provisions regarding the resolution of disputes, and to respect the rights and freedoms of other States under the Convention. Neither Party contests this, and the Tribunal is therefore not persuaded that it is necessary or appropriate for it to make any further declaration.