Two former Philippine officials have brought a complaint against China to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Chinese President Xi Jinping of implementing a systematic plan to control the South China Sea and endangering local fishermen.
The complaint, filed last week by former Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario and ex-ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and made available to the media on Thursday, includes a 17-page outline of how Xi and other Chinese officials allegedly committed crimes against humanity by seeking to control the mineral-rich sea region.
Along with Xi, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua were named in the complaint.
Del Rosario and Morales said they filed the complaint on behalf of thousands of Filipino fishermen “persecuted and injured’’ by China’s “aggressive occupation” of South China Sea islands, pointing to the construction of military installations they claimed were destructive to marine life.
“This has seriously undermined the food and energy security of the coastal states in the South China Sea, including the Philippines,” they said in the complaint, a copy of which was received by BenarNews.
“Though widely publicized, these atrocious actions of Chinese officials in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory remain unpunished, and it is only the ICC that can exact accountability on behalf of Filipinos and the international community, respecting the rule of law,’’ they stressed.
It was not clear if the case would prosper, considering that the Philippines withdrew from the court amid an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war. China is not a signatory to The Hague-based body.
Speaking to reporters in Manila, Duterte said the former officials had the right to file the complaint.
“The Philippines is a democratic country and anybody can bring a suit against anybody. But whether or not it would prosper or whether or not we have the jurisdiction, that’s something else,” Duterte said. “They think they have a good case and I would say that the ICC has no jurisdiction over this country and China.”
Situation is ‘unique and relevant’
The complaint urged the court to “initiate a preliminary examination” and appraise itself of “Chinese crimes committed not only against the Filipino people but also against people of other nations, which crimes are already known to the international community.”
It stressed that in pushing for China’s alleged systematic plan to take over the mineral-rich sea region Xi “committed crimes within the jurisdiction of the court which involve massive, near permanent and devastating environmental damage across nations.”
“The situation presented is both unique and relevant in that it presents one of the most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment in humanity’s history, which has not only adversely affected and injured myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, but present and future generations of people across nations,’’ the complaint said.
Spokesmen for the Chinese Embassy in Manila were not immediately available for comment.
News of the ICC case came as Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin was winding down a visit to Beijing where he met with his counterpart, Wang Yi. The two had a “friendly, candid and in-depth discussion” on a range of issues including “political-security cooperation,” according to the Philippine foreign ministry.
Both ministers reaffirmed their respective countries’ shared commitment to sustaining the positive momentum of relations on the basis of mutual respect and sincerity, according to a Philippine statement.
China claims most of the mineral-rich South China Sea, including areas that reach the shores of its smaller neighbors. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to the region.
In 2012, the Chinese seized the Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground within the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, after a two-month standoff with the Philippine Navy.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines over China, saying there was no legal basis for Beijing to claim historical rights in the sea region.
Beijing rejected the ruling and launched a building spree in territories it controls in the sea.