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Award of the Tribunal constituted in Permanent Court of Arbitration Case No. 2013-19 between the Republic of the Philippines and People’s Republic of China

July 12, 2016

THE SOUTH CHINA SEA ARBITRATION
(THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES V. THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA)

The Hague, 12 July 2016

The Tribunal Renders Its Award

A unanimous Award has been issued today by the Tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the “Convention”) in the arbitration instituted by the Republic of the Philippines against the People’s Republic of China.

This arbitration concerned the role of historic rights and the source of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, the status of certain maritime features and the maritime entitlements they are capable of generating, and the lawfulness of certain actions by China that were alleged by the Philippines to violate the Convention. In light of limitations on compulsory dispute settlement under the Convention, the Tribunal has emphasized that it does not rule on any question of sovereignty over land territory and does not delimit any boundary between the Parties.

China has repeatedly stated that “it will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.” Annex VII, however, provides that the “[a]bsence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings.” Annex VII also provides that, in the event that a party does not participate in the proceedings, a tribunal “must satisfy itself not only that it has jurisdiction over the dispute but also that the claim is well founded in fact and law.” Accordingly, throughout these proceedings, the Tribunal has taken steps to test the accuracy of the Philippines’ claims, including by requesting further written submissions from the Philippines, by questioning the Philippines both prior to and during two hearings, by appointing independent experts to report to the Tribunal on technical matters, and by obtaining historical evidence concerning features in the South China Sea and providing it to the Parties for comment. China has also made clear—through the publication of a Position Paper in December 2014 and in other official statements—that, in its view, the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction in this matter. Article 288 of the Convention provides 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.” Accordingly, the Tribunal convened a hearing on jurisdiction and admissibility in July 2015 and rendered an Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility on 29 October 2015, deciding some issues of jurisdiction and deferring others for further consideration. The Tribunal then convened a hearing on the merits from 24 to 30 November 2015.

The Award of today’s date addresses the issues of jurisdiction not decided in the Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility and the merits of the Philippines’ claims over which the Tribunal has jurisdiction. The Award is final and binding, as set out in Article 296 of the Convention and Article 11 of Annex VII.

Read more: Press Release: The South China Sea Arbitration