On for the Law of the SeasOn for the Law of the Seas

January 22, 2013, the Republic of the Philippines brought the People’s Republic
of China to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITOLS). The
case is about a disagreement over the People’s Republic of China’s claim of
territory due to their “nine-dash line.” The conflict between the People’s
Republic of China and the Philippines can be traced back to the People’s
Republic of China (PRC) claiming ownership of the territory inside of their
“nine-dash line” on December 1, 1947. However, the situation did not escalate
until the Scarbourgh Shoal Standoff on April 8, 2012. The PRC and the
Philippines both claim Scarbourgh Shoal. On April 8, 2012, the Philippines
spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in the shoal’s water. The
Philippine’s navy was sent to investigate the eight vessels. After the
investigation, the Filipino navy claimed the vessels were carrying illegally
collected giant clams, live sharks, and corals. The investigators attempted to
arrest the Chinese fishermen, but were blocked by Chinese maritime surveillance
ships. Recently, the People’s Republic of China has been carrying out land
reclamation projects near the Spartlay Islands to strengthen their claims to
their “nine-dash line.”


            The United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) set forth that a coastal state’s exclusive economic
zone (EEZ) cannot extend two-hundred nautical miles past the state’s coastal
baseline in Article 57. Article 56 of the UNCLOS states that a state has
sovereign rights over the sea and land within their exclusive economic zone. If
a state’s exclusive economic zones overlaps with another state, it’s the
responsibility of the states to specify the EEZ boundaries by negotiating or
splitting the difference. Area’s that are not any state’s exclusive economic
zone, is considered international waters. International waters are subjected to
United Nation’s Maritime Law and are shared by everyone. In regards to the reclamation
projects by creating artificial islands, according to Article 60 of the UNCLOS,
artificial islands do not have the status of an island.

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            I think the Philippines claims to
the Spartlay island chain and Scarbourgh Shoal is valid. The island chain and
Scarbourgh Shoal both are located in the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

According to the UNCLOS, Article 56, because the island chain and Scarbourgh
Shoal are in the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone, the Philippines have
jurisdiction over them. The People’s Republic of China also has not filed a
formal claim to their “nine-dash line.” The PRC is basing their claim to their
line to historic rights because the sea in question was retained by the Ming
Dynasty. However, the People’s Republic of China has not established any
coordinates for the “nine-dash line,” which invalidates their claim. If the
People’s Republic of China cannot distinguish where exactly their “nine-dash
line” is or present a formal claim, then they cannot claim jurisdiction over
the area where the supposed line lays. The PRC also does not specify whether
they are claiming the land within the “nine-dash line” or the sea, or both.

It’s unknown because the “nine-dash line” does not follow the UNCLOS terms,
however the People’s Republic of China are trying to pass the “nine-dash line”
as a part of their exclusive economic zone. 
The “nine-dash line” also extends more than five-hundred nautical miles
from the People’s Republic of China, which is in violation of Article 57 of the
UNCLOS, which establishes that exclusive economic zones cannot extend
two-hundred nautical miles from a state’s baseline.


I believe that the PRC’s claim to their
“nine-dash line” interrupts state sovereignty because their claim cuts into
multiple state’s exclusive economic zones. I deem that the Philippines, and
surrounding sovereign states, should keep their exclusive economic zones until
the overlap with each other. The area of overlapping EEZ’s should be then
turned into international waters in order to settle disputes over who the area
belongs to.