Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said the country’s next chief executive should not be subservient to China.
Carpio in a virtual international conference on the need to strengthen national security and maritime defense strategies amid the ongoing Eastern European war when Russia invaded Ukraine this week emphasized the importance of enforcing the Philippines’ historic win in the Permanent Court of Arbitration of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) against China in contesting the West Philippine Sea.
“An overwhelming majority of Filipinos, consistently over 80 percent in SWS (Social Weather Stations) surveys since 2016, want the arbitral award enforced. The Filipino people understand that all the fish, oil, gas, and other mineral resources in our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea belong exclusively to the Philippines,” Carpio said.
All the leading Presidential candidates in the May 2022 elections say that they would enforce the Hague ruling, with the sole exception of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr..
According to Marcos, the country cannot enforce the Hague ruling as he claims that China was not included in the arbitration. “The arbitration is no longer an arbitration if there’s only one party. So, it’s no longer available to us,” Marcos said in an interview.
This was also the argument used by President Rodrigo Duterte during his term. Since 2016, the West Philippine Sea has seen escalating excursions from Chinese maritime militia vessels at the country’s Pag-asa and Julian Felipe reefs.
As part of the delegation in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Carpio belied claims that China’s arguments were not heard at the arbitral tribunal. According to Carpio, China, as party to the UNCLOS, sent their position paper during the arbitration.
The former SC justice adds that all the powerful nations around the world agree with the ruling of UNCLOS, and that China is the only nation that refuses to recognize it. “More and more countries are recognizing the arbitral award and supporting its compliance by China and the Philippines,” Carpio said.
These countries have realized that if the UNCLOS cannot apply in the West Philippine Sea, then their more powerful neighbors may also claim that the UNCLOS does not apply also to their near seas,” dagdag pa ng dating Supreme Court justice.
Carpio hopes that all the Presidential candidates in the May 2022 elections would take seriously the many challenges to the Philippines’ national security and sovereignty, especially now that China and Russia have been flexing their might in the region. “The domestic and international events since the landmark 2016 arbitral award are a rich source of lessons from which the next President can learn,” Carpio believed.