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June 24, 2017

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UN can use Manila's protests against China as evidence

MANILA, Philippines--The diplomatic protests that the Philippines has filed against China, despite being flatly rejected, can still be used as documentary evidence in the arbitration case before the United Nations (U.N.) court, an international law expert said.

Philippines has filed several protests against China over the Scarborough Shoal standoff in April 2012, the water cannon incident also in Scarborough this January 2014, and the expulsion incident in Ayungin Shoal last March 9.

All protests were rejected by China, insisting that the entire South China Sea, including portions of the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is an inherent part of its national territory.

"The importance of the diplomatic protest is it just goes to show that there are continuing violations by China ... we can use these as pieces of evidence of continued violations by China of our EEZ," Gilbert Andres, a member of the Center for International Law in the Philippines, said in a phone interview with

"Actually our case is already strong, but (the protests are) additional evidence of continued violation. It is documentary evidence, that's why we are filing these diplomatic protests, although we expect China to disregard it," he said.

Last Jan. 27, Filipino fishermen were driven away from Scarborough shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) using water cannons.

On March 9, two civilian vessels contracted by the Philippine Navy to conduct troop rotation and resupply operations in Ayungin were followed, blocked, and then told to leave by the CCG.

The two most recent incidents show China increasing aggressiveness in asserting control over the South China Sea.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines' Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, sees that there will likely be more incidents of expulsion as China restricts movement in the West Philippine Sea.

"(The expulsion incident in Ayungin Shoal) is consistent with the pattern that emerged since last year of increasing restrictions of movement in WPS," Batongbacal previously said.

"We can expect same, if not higher, levels of restrictions from here on, especially during (the pending) arbitration," he said.

The Philippines has filed an arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against China's maritime claims. China however has refused to participate in the proceedings.

The Philippines is set to submit its memorandum by March 30.

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