'PH can enforce Arbitral Award in West PH Sea' — Carpio

Published July 15, 2021, 3:19 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday proposed five measures that the Philippines can take following the inaction of the Duterte administration to enforce the 2016 Arbitral Award in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (1Sambayan/Facebook)

Speaking at the 1Sambayan town hall meeting, Carpio said it was President Duterte himself who announced in December 2016 that he is setting aside the Arbitral Award rendered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

First, the former magistrate said the Philippines should immediately withdraw the authorization given by Duterte to China allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio argued that Duterte has no authority to allow Chinese fishermen to fish and harvest marine wealth within the country’s EEZ which the Constitution explicitly reserves for the exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens.

Because of Duterte’s unconstitutional policy of favoring Chinese fishermen, he said Filipino fishermen and consumers are now suffering.

“We now have to import ‘galunggong’ (blue mackerel scud) from China and Chinese fishermen get these galunggong from the West Philippine Sea, our own galunggong. Galunggong is now twice as expensive as chicken. Filipino fishermen and Filipino consumers are suffering because of an unconstitutional policy of President Duterte favoring Chinese fishermen,” Carpio said.

Second is for the Philippines to immediately retract President Duterte’s previous statement that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio pointed out that the President is actually discouraging Filipino service contractors from performing their obligations under their service contracts on oil and gas exploration with the Philippine government.

“This has serious ramifications. Our Malampaya gas field will run out of gas in 3 to 4 years. The replacement should be Reed Bank which has gas reserves more than twice the Malampaya gas field. But our service contractors cannot go to Reed Bank because President Duterte himself said that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea, which includes Reed Bank,” the retired justice said.

If not properly addressed, Carpio said this will be worst than COVID-19 because without electricity people cannot even work from home.

“But this will make our electricity already one of the most expensive in ASEAN even more expensive. Businesses and consumers will suffer and investors will not put up plants in the Philippines because of the high power cost. President Duterte’s policy of appeasing China will cost untold suffering to our people,” he said.

The third action is for the Philippines to join the freedom of navigation (FON) exercises with the United States and its allies like Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, India and Germany which “represent the strongest enforcement of the Arbitral Award”.

For the fourth action, Carpio likewise suggested that the Philippines conduct joint patrols with its ASEAN neighbors like Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Indonesia to demonstrate to China and into the world that in the South China Sea, these coastal states at their own EEZs are “unimpaired” by China’s nine-dash line.

The former High Court justice maintained that these joint patrols are “peaceful and lawful exercises of sovereign rights” and are allowed under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect coastal states’ exclusive rights to the living and non-living resources within its EEZ.

And for the fifth action, Carpio said the Philippines can unilaterally file with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf a 150 nautical mile extended continental shelf of the coast of Luzon facing the West Philippine Sea.

“The filing of this extended continental shelf claim asserts the existence of the Phl EEZ in the West Philippine Sea and affirms by state practice with the arbitral award,” said the former justice who is now one of the lead convenors of 1Sambayan.