The Philippines has formally presented its case against China before an international tribunal at the Hague, arguing that Beijing has no right to exercise what it refers to as "historic rights" over areas of the South China Sea.

A report posted on the official website of the Presidential Communications Operations Office on Wednesday stated that the Philippine delegation had begun presenting its arguments before an Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Peace Palace at The Hague.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Solicitor General Florin Hilbay had introduced the case for the Philippines and presented the order of speakers for the hearing.

 "Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario made an impassioned plea for the Tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction due to the importance of the case, not just to our country but to the entire world, owing to its impact on the application of the Rule of Law in maritime disputes,” she added.

China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea, but several other Asian nations have also laid claim.

China uses the so-called “nine-dash line” on the map to assert ownership of almost the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines uses the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as basis for its claim.

Valte said Paul Reichler, Chief Counsel for the Philippines, presented the justification for the Tribunal’s jurisdiction over the Philippine claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Professor Philippe Sands followed Reichler’s presentation by stating that the Philippines did not raise questions of sovereignty over land or raise questions of maritime delimitation.

Speaking before the court, del Rosario presented five principal claims. 

-- First, that China is not entitled to exercise what it refers to as “historic rights” over the waters, seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of its entitlements under the Convention.

-- Second, that the so-called nine dash line has no basis whatsoever under international law insofar as it purports to define the limits of China’s claim to “historic rights”

-- Third, that the various maritime features relied upon by China as a basis upon which to assert its claims in the South China Sea are not islands that generate entitlement to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.  

Del Rosario added that some are “rocks” within the meaning of Article 121, paragraph 3; others are low-tide elevations; and still others are permanently submerged. As a result, none are capable of generating entitlements beyond 12 meters, and some generate no entitlements at all. China’s recent massive reclamation activities cannot lawfully change the original nature and character of these features, he added

-- Fourth, that China has breached the Convention by interfering with the Philippines’ exercise of its sovereign rights and jurisdiction

-- Fifth, that China has irreversibly damaged the regional marine environment, in breach of UNCLOS, by its destruction of coral reefs in the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ EEZ, by its destructive and hazardous fishing practices, and by its harvesting of endangered species.

Del Rosario said China's actions have trampled other nations' rights and damaged vast coral reefs irreversibly. He asked the tribunal to declare China's claims to all the South China Sea invalid.

"In the Philippines’ view, it is not just the Philippines’ claims against China that rest in your capable hands. Mr. President, it is the spirit of UNCLOS itself," he said.

"That is why, we submit, these proceedings have attracted so much interest and attention. We call on the Tribunal to kindly uphold the Convention and enable the rule of law to prevail," del Rosario said. 

Anadolu Agency