Carpio counters Duterte: PH neighbors standing up to China without war
MANILA, Philippines—Former Supreme Court (SC) senior associate justice Antonio Carpio has reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that a country need not go to war to defend its maritime territory, like the Philippines’ Southeast Asian neighbors are able to do.
Carpio on Monday (July 27) cited the cases of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia—all of which have asserted their rights over their maritime zones against China’s claim based on the nine-dash line myth.
The former senior associate justice made the remarks in reaction to Duterte’s declaration in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) that he was helpless against China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea because he cannot afford to go to war with China and was inutile on the matter.
“Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are asserting their sovereign rights to their maritime zones against China’s claims,” Carpio said in a statement.
“These countries do not go to war against China, and neither does China go to war against these countries,” Carpio added.
“A country does not need to go to war to assert its sovereign rights,” he said.
“There are lawful and peaceful means of asserting sovereign rights. War is not even (an) option because the UN Charter outlaws resort to war to settle territorial or maritime disputes,” he added.
According to Duterte, claiming and defending the country’s territorial waters entails going to war with the Asian giant, something that he cannot afford especially since, he said, China is already in possession of territory being claimed by the Philippines.
But Carpio cautioned Duterte against making such declarations because China, Carpio said, does not have control of the region as other naval powers pass through the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“China does not possess Philippine [EEZ] which is beyond the 12-nautical mile territorial seas of disputed islands or high-tide geologic features,” said the former senior associate justice.
“Naval powers like the US, UK, France, Australia, Japan, and Canada regularly sail in our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, proving that China is not in possession of our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“The President should not say that China is in possession of our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea because factually China is not in possession,” he added.
Carpio has long advocated a tougher stance agains China’s occupation and intrusion in islands in the West Philippine Sea. Previously, he also suggested measures through which the Philippines may pursue its stake on the islands without resorting to violent means.
Back in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration decided that the Philippines has exclusive rights in the West Philippine Sea, and that China’s nine-dash claim—which covered almost the entire area—was invalid and has no historical basis.
As previous administration’s pursuit of the complaint damaged ties between Manila and Beijing, Duterte’s administration took a 360 degree turn and embraced China, declaring it as a sign of an independent foreign policy.
Duterte’s pivot to China, however, also drew criticisms as Chinese interests gained ground in the Philippines since he took office—from Philippine offshore gaming operations to the administration’s preference for Chinese-funded projects.
In 2019, nongovernment organization Karagatan Patrol revealed that more and more ships — possibly Chinese — have been detected moving into the Philippines’ EEZ. The group said these were detected with the use of technology called Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) light detection sensor since 2016—the year Duterte was elected President.
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