The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the country’s premier organization of lawyers, today expressed support to the Philippine stand to bring the Scarborough Shoal issue to international arbitration, but rejected the reported plan to hire foreign lawyers to represent the country in any international forum.
In a statement, IBP president Roan Libarios said the Philippines has a sufficient number of lawyers, who are experts in international law and, ergo, could represent the country in any forum to argue the case to its favor.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has expressed its intention to bring the controversy before the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for arbitration, but China rejected it, saying it favored bilateral discussions.
The ITLOS is an independent judicial body, which the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has created to adjudicate disputes arising from the conflicting interpretations and applications of the Convention.
The ITLOS is composed of 21 independent members, who are elected among persons reputed for fairness, integrity, and proven competence in international law, particularly on the law of the sea.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, the Philippines plans to bring the issue to ITLOS “to ascertain which of us has sovereign rights over the waters surrounding the Scarborough Shoal,” which is also known as Panatag Shoal in local language.
Libarios did not name the Filipino experts in international law, but said the IBP’s roll of lawyers shows that the country has a pool from where the DFA could draw those lawyers who could represent the country in ITLOS.
“We don’t need foreign lawyers to represent us. The local lawyers have proven competence and credentials to argue our case before an international forum,” Libarios said.
Libarios said the IBP could form a committee of lawyers, who could help the DFA in laying down its legal arguments on the controversy. He did not discuss details