Philippines seeks speedy UN ruling on sea dispute with China

 A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014. The Philippines said China's "expansion agenda" in the disputed South Chi
 A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014. The Philippines said China's "expansion agenda" in the disputed South China Sea threatened security and stability in the region, calling on all claimant states to halt construction activities that may raise tensions. -- PHOTO: REUTERSCopyright: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines said on Thursday it would ask a UN tribunal to expedite its appeal to declare China's expansive claims to the South China Sea invalid, as tensions over the contested waters worsen.

A formal request will be filed seeking a resolution on the case within the year or early 2015, foreign department spokesman Charles Jose said.

"We are consulting our legal team to present a request to the tribunal if it can hasten its process earlier, rather than later," Mr Jose told AFP. He declined to say when the request would be formally transmitted.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario separately said a speedier ruling was necessary "because the situation is getting worse by the day in the South China Sea".

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters near the shores of its neighbours, which has led to escalating territorial disputes. "The only mechanism that's out there right now ... is arbitration", Mr del Rosario was quoted in local press reports as saying.

"So we hope to be able to get the arbitration in place, that will be the goal line for all of us," he said.

"Hopefully since China is not participating perhaps we can get a quicker resolution from the tribunal," he added.

Manila lodged an appeal in March with the United Nations tribual to rule the claims illegal, but China has resolutely refused to participate in the proceedings.

Mr Del Rosario has said he backs a US proposal for a fresh regional dialogue for a freeze on actions that could provoke tensions in the South China Sea amid fears that Beijing has increasingly become aggressive in staking its claims. In recent months, the Philippines filed protests after it monitored reclamations in a number of outcrops in the sea region that are within its exclusive economic zone but are occupied by China.

In one of the outcrops, Johnson South Reef, the Philippines said the Chinese appeared to be reclaiming land that may turned into an airstrip.

Apart from the Philippines, China also has overlapping South China Sea claims with Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, a well as with rival Taiwan.