Carpio to DFA: Ask US, Asean to make Scarborough Shoal an official ‘red line’
Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday said the Philippine government should ask the United States and Asean countries to make Scarborough Shoal an ‘official red line’ in the South China Sea dispute.
In international affairs, a red line is a condition set by a certain party. When that condition is violated, the offending party may suffer “severe consequences” that can range from economic sanctions to military actions.
Carpio said the US, a longtime ally of the Philippines, should recognize Scarborough Shoal as part of the Philippine territory for it would be covered by the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
“The DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] should also campaign for the United States to make Scarborough Shoal the official red line under the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT),” Carpio said.
The 1951 MDT, signed by the Philippines and United States, stipulates that both will come to each other’s defense against an armed attack.
During the forum organized by Stratbase Institute, Carpio said the DFA should also campaign among Asean, especially the coastal states included in the nine-dash line in the South China Sea, to make Scarborough as Asean’s red line — that China cannot build any structure on Scarborough Shoal.
The forum coincided with the second year anniversary since the international court in The Hague handed down the landmark ruling on July 12, 2016 that favored the Philippines and invalidated China’s massive claims in the South China Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte has put aside the favorable ruling in exchange for economic aid and investments from China while the Asian giant refused to acknowledge the decision.
Scarborough Shoal a ‘red line’
Carpio recalled that former US President Barack Obama himself told President Xi Jinping in 2015 that Scarborough Shoal was a “red line” in the South China Sea dispute.
The US also recognized that the shoal has been part of Philippine territory dating back to when the US was still the colonial power in the Philippines, Carpio said.
The shoal lies just over 100 nautical miles from the province of Zambales. It has been under the control of China since 2012 after a standoff with the Philippines.
This was the incident pushed the Philippines to file an arbitration case against China before the international court in The Hague.
Official red lines
The Philippine government earlier said Scarborough Shoal is the first among the official red lines in the sea dispute.
The Philippines insisted that China cannot reclaim or build any structure on Scarborough Shoal.
“Not all is doom and gloom with the Philippine government’s policy in the West Philippine Sea. I am heartened that Secretary of Foreign Affairs Peter Cayetano has drawn a red line on Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio said.
RELATED STORY: Cayetano’s red lines PR stunt, says Alejano
Another red line is that the Chinese should not do anything the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusty ship ran aground on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).
China was warned against towing away the BRP Sierra Madre as this would be considered an attack against the Philippines and prompt the United States to defend the country under the MDT.
A third red line is that China should not also do any unilateral drilling for natural resources within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
Freedom of navigation and overflight operations
Meanwhile, Carpio also asked the Philippines and other coastal states to encourage freedom of navigation and overflight operations by other countries in the South China Sea.
“The more freedom of navigation and overflight operations that are conducted by other other states, the stronger will be the enforcement of the Award…With these operations, China can no longer turn the South China Sea into a Chinese Mare Nostrum,” he said.
However, Carpio said the world’s naval powers have been enforcing the Award through the exercise of freedom of navigation and overflight operations.
Conduct more aerial and naval patrols
According to Carpio, the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force should also continue conducting aerial and naval patrols to protect the country’s exclusive economic zone,
It is through these patrols, he said, that the poachers and polluters in the EEZ can be detected, identified and apprehended.
“Philippine naval and aerial patrols in our exclusive economic zone is not about freedom of navigation or overflight but about protecting and safeguarding the exclusive right of the Philippines to the living and non-living resources in its own exclusive economic zone,” Carpio said.
“I believe the Filipino people would like to see such patrols conducted regularly and periodically as mandated by the Constitution. This is obviously demanded by the national interest of our country,” he said. /vvp
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