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The South China Sea Arbitration, The South China Sea Arbitration: the Republic of Philippines vs. the People's Republic of China

Amicus Curiae Submission by the Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law to the PCA in the matter of the arbitration between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China

I. INTRODUCTION

  1. The present amicus curiae brief is submitted by the Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law (“the CSIL”) in relation to the arbitral proceedings instituted by the Republic of the Philippines (“the Philippines”) against the People’s Republic of China (“the PRC”) on 22 January 2013 pursuant to Articles 286 and 287 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“the Convention” or “UNCLOS”) and in accordance with Article 1 of Annex VII to the Convention (“the Annex VII arbitral proceedings”).
  1. The Annex VII arbitral proceedings instituted by the Philippines against the PRC relate to disputes over maritime claims and entitlements in the South China Sea.
  1. The Philippines stated in Notification and Statement of Claim of the Republic of the Philippines (“Notification and Statement of Claim”) that it seeks an Award, inter alia, that “determines whether, under Article 121 of UNCLOS, certain maritime features claimed by both the PRC and the Philippines are islands, low tide elevations or submerged banks, and whether such features are capable of generating entitlement to a maritime zone greater than 12 [nautical miles].”[1]
  1. The Philippines argued in its Memorial, submitted to the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the Convention on 30 March 2014, that Taiping Island (also known as Itu Aba in English) does not have natural conditions sufficient to sustain human habitation and economic life of its own, and is therefore considered a “rock”. As such, Taiping Island cannot generate entitlement to an Exclusive Economic Zone (“EEZ”) or a continental shelf under UNCLOS.
  1. On 16 December 2014, the Tribunal invited the Philippines and the PRC to comment on a number of issues, including (a) possible appointment of an expert hydrographer, (b) the possibility of a site visit, and (c) the appropriate procedure with regard to any amicus curiae submissions that the Tribunal may receive.[2]
  1. On 26 January 2015, the Philippines, in a letter sent to the Tribunal, inter alia, (a) made suggestions as to the appropriate profile of a technical expert, (b) commented on the desirability and prospects of organizing a site visit, and (c) commented on appropriate procedures for evaluating any amicus curiae submission.[3]
  1. On 6 February 2015, the PRC, in a letter sent to the Tribunal, expressed its “firm opposition” to some of the procedural items raised in the PCA Correspondence dated 16 December 2014, including “amicus curiae submissions” and “site visit[s].”[4]
  1. On 7 July 2015, at a hearing on jurisdiction and admissibility, Professor Philippe Sands, one of the Philippines’ counsels, stated: “Itu Aba, which is the largest feature in the Southern Sector, has been occupied by the authorities in Taiwan since 1946. It is no more than 0.43 square kilometers in size. It has no permanent population. It provides no water suitable for drinking, and it does not provide a meaningful amount of agricultural produce.”[5]
  1. The Tribunal forwarded to the Philippines and the PRC documentation from sources about the status of Itu Aba, including, on 10 November 2015, copies of Shao, Kwang-Tsao & Lin, Hsing-Juh, eds., A Frontier in the South China Sea: Biodiversity of Taiping Island, Nansha Islands (December 2014); and Ministry of the Interior, the Republic of China (“ROC”), Compilation of Historical Archives on the Southern Territories of the Republic of China (July 2015).
  1. On 30 November 2015, during the second oral hearing held at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (“PCA”), The Hague, Mr. Paul Reichler, one of the Philippines’ legal counsels, in response to the questions raised by the Tribunal concerning the legal status of Itu Aba, made the following eight propositions:

(1) there is no fresh water on Itu Aba suitable for drinking or capable of sustaining a human settlement;

(2) there is no natural source of nourishment on the feature capable of sustaining a human settlement;

(3) there is no soil on Itu Aba capable of facilitating any kind of agricultural production that could sustain human habitation;

(4) there has never been a population on the feature that is indigenous to it;

(5) excluding military garrisons, there has never been human settlement of any kind on Itu Aba;

(6) there was not even a military occupation prior to World War II;

(7) the Taiwanese troops that are garrisoned at Itu Aba are entirely dependent for their survival on supplies from Taiwan, and apart from sunlight and air, they derive nothing they need from the feature itself;

(8) no economic activity has been or is performed on Itu Aba.[6]

  1. On 5 February 2016, the Tribunal sent a letter to the Philippines and the PRC inviting them to comment, inter alia, on Press Release No. 023 (23 January 2016), headlined “Taiping Island is an island, not a rock, and the ROC possesses full rights associated with an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in accordance with UNCLOS”[7] and the “Remarks by President Ma Ying-jeou on Taiping Island, dated 28 January 2016.”[8]

Scope of Submission

  1. The present submission has one purpose: to provide further factual information that may assist the Arbitral Tribunal in reaching a decision on the legal status of Taiping Island, determining that it is an island under Article 121(1), not a “rock” under Article 121(3), and is therefore entitled to all rights provided for in Article 121(2) of the UNCLOS.

Read the full submission at South China Sea – CSIL Amicus Curiae Submission

Notes:

[1] Notification and Statement of Claim of the Republic of the Philippines, ¶6 (22 January 2013), https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2165477/phl-prc-notification-and-statement-of-clai m-on.pdf

[2] Letter sent by Judith Levine, Registrar, to the two parties, PH-CN 130909 (16 December 2014).

[3] The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, PCA Case Nº 2013-19, ¶63 at 22 (29 October 2015).

[4] See The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China, Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, PCA Case Nº 2013-19, ¶64 at 23 (29 October 2015).

[5] See The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China, Final Transcript Day 1-Hearing on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, at 88 (5 July 2015),

http://www.pcacases.com/web/sendAttach/1399.

[6] See The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China, Final Transcript Day 4-Hearing on the Merits and Remaining Issues of Jurisdiction and Admissibility, at 41-42 (30 November 2015), http://www.pcacases.com/web/sendAttach/1550.

[7] See Exhibit 1, Taiping Island Is an Island, Not a Rock, and the ROC Possesses Full Rights Associated with an Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf in accordance with UNCLOS, ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release No. 23 (23 January 2016),

http://www.mofa.gov.tw/en/News_Content.aspx?n=1EADDCFD4C6EC567&s=542A8C89D51D8739

(last visited 14 March 2016).

[8] See Exhibit 2, Remarks by President Ma on Taiping Island, ROC Office of the President (28 January, 2016), http://english.president.gov.tw/Default.aspx?tabid=1124&itemid=36634&view=home (last visited 14 March 2016).

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