Filipino activists rally ahead of South China Sea ruling

Protesters rally in Manila ahead of the South China Sea ruling. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Manila, Philippines Jul 12, 2016, 07.17 AM (IST)

About a hundred Filipino activists rallied outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila's financial district on Tuesday ahead of an international arbitration ruling on the SouthChina Sea.

An arbitration court in The Hague will rule on Tuesday in a dispute about the waterway in which the Philippines is challenging China's right to exploit resources across vast swathes of the strategic territory.

China has boycotted the hearings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, saying it does not have jurisdiction to decide on the matter. The announcement is expected at 0900GMT.

The Filipinio activists marched towards the consulate on Tuesday morning carrying placards demanding China leave the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.

"We reject in no uncertain terms the nine-dash claims being made by China, and we uphold the provisions stated in the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea. The issue is very clear, that China has to respect the right of the Filipinos, especially on the Exclusive Economic Zone," said New Patriotic Alliance Secretary General Renato Reyes.

Several fishermen from coastal towns near the South China Sea joined the protest, carrying a boat effigy with the words "Chexit now!" and "Hands off PH!" painted on the side.

"I will return, I will definitely return. In fact, we went there on June 12, but were blocked from entering the shoal. We were shooed away like dogs, so we had no other choice but to turn back. This is my wish and the reason I came here - to listen to the tribunal decision to see if the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal is ours. If it is, then I will be really happy, and so will my fellow fishermen," said Fred Manzano, a fisherman from the coastal town of Masinloc near the Scarborough Shoal which has seen various encounters with the Chinese coastguard.

The case, brought by the Philippines in 2013, hinges on the legal status of reefs, rocks and artificial islands in the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Island Group.

The South China Sea is one of the world's vital shipping lanes, through which a total of $5 trillion in trade is carried every year, and the ruling could further ramp up tensions in the region, where China's increased military assertiveness has spread concern among its smaller neighbours, and is a point of contention with the United States.