Manila to argue case at The Hague this week

MANILA • The Philippines this week will argue the merits of its case asking an international arbitration court to dismiss China's claims to nearly all of the disputed South China Sea.

A team of lawyers and experts led by Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay is in The Hague to present Manila's case against Beijing from today till Friday.

"We have anticipated all angles… We are confident that we can present a very good case before the arbitral tribunal, and we certainly hope that the jurors will see it our way," President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.

In a 4,000-page plea it submitted in March last year, the Philippines accuses China of violating international laws by claiming areas that are 1,611km away from its borders, and nearer those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

In an initial ruling last month, the arbitration court said it has the power to determine whether seven reefs in the South China Sea that Beijing has transformed into islands can be considered part of Chinese territories.

China said on Sunday that it would continue to build military and civilian facilities on its islands, even as it accused the United States of "political provocation" by sending a warship and bomber through the South China Sea.

Mr Aquino told reporters shortly after returning to Manila from the Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur that China's Premier Li Keqiang assured him that Beijing remained committed to a "code of conduct" meant to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea.

RAUL DANCEL

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2015, with the headline 'Manila to argue case at The Hague this week'. Print Edition | Subscribe