As is well known, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (here; hereafter Convention) provides for compulsory dispute settlement, albeit subject to various limitations and exceptions. In principle, any dispute regarding the interpretation or application of the Convention may be submitted to binding settlement (Article 286), via a choice for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice or arbitration under Annex VIII (Article 287). In case of varying choices by the parties, the default procedure is an Annex VII special arbitration, and this was the procedure used by the Philippines to initiate the case against China.
The latest award in this case (here; hereafter Award on the Merits) has already been commented upon (here, here and here; and here, here, here, here, here and here). Nevertheless, a critical reading of that award and its predecessor on jurisdiction and admissibility (here; noting other views here and here; hereafter Award on Jurisdiction) may bare certain weaknesses that go to their core, and hence possibly their validity, namely whether the Tribunal possessed the requisite jurisdiction to decide certain disputes and render its award on the merits in the first place. Possible flaws lie with its claim that certain disputes do not require it to determine sovereignty, with its claim that China does not invoke historic title, and with its claim that no issues of delimitation are at stake.