This initial victory means the tribunal can hear the merits of the Philippines’ case – and issue a definitive ruling by 2016.In a news release late Thursday evening, October 29, the PCA said the tribunal “has held that both the Philippines and China are parties” to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and therefore “bound by its provisions on the settlement of disputes.”HISTORIC CASE. The arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, listens to the first country that brought China to court over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Photo courtesy of PCA“The tribunal has also held that China’s decision not to participate in these proceedings does not deprive the tribunal of jurisdiction and that the Philippines’ decision to commence arbitration unilaterally was not an abuse of the Convention’s dispute settlement procedures,” it said.“In light of the foregoing, the tribunal has concluded that it is presently able to decide that it does have jurisdiction with respect to the matters raised in 7 of the Philippines’ Submissions. The tribunal has concluded, however, that its jurisdiction with respect to 7 other Submissions by the Philippines will need to be considered in conjunction with the merits. The tribunal has requested the Philippines to clarify and narrow one of its Submissions,” the PCA added.