MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines has taken China to a UN tribunal to challenge its claim to most of the South China Sea, including territory belonging to the archipelago, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Tuesday.

Del Rosario told reporters that Manila had referred Beijing to an arbitration panel under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - a 1982 treaty signed by both countries - and would ask it to declare Chinese claims in the area invalid.

“The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China,” he said.

“On numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the Philippines has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle these disputes. To this day, a solution is still elusive.

“We hope that the arbitral proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution.”

China’s territorial claims overlap those of the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Over the past two years the Philippines and Vietnam have complained at China’s increasing assertiveness in enforcing those claims, particularly around areas believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves.

Manila says the Chinese stance led to a standoff last year with the Philippines over rich fishing grounds around the Scarborough Shoal, a formation much closer to the Philippine coast than to China’s shores.

The Philippines in its submission says Beijing’s so-called “nine-dash line” outlining its territorial claims over most of the sea, including waters and islands close to its neighbours, is illegal, according to del Rosario.

It also demands that China “desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines under the 1982 UNCLOS”, he added.