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Palace disputes Carpio position on PH Rise

/ 07:24 AM January 16, 2018

Malacañang on Monday disputed Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s contention that Beijing should first accept a UN-backed arbitral court’s ruling recognizing Manila’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea before it could be allowed to explore a resource-rich submerged region off eastern Philippines.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Beijing’s acceptance of the July 12, 2016, decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague was “immaterial” under international law.

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“The issue of whether or not China accepts the ruling is immaterial under international law. What is material under international [law] is it’s there. It’s there, that’s the unique feature of international law. You cannot deny what is there,” Roque said in a media briefing.

The ruling invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea and declared Beijing had violated Manila’s sovereign right to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

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Belaboring the issue?

“I do not understand why Justice Carpio belabors the point that China hasn’t accepted it,” Roque said.

“In the first place, it’s not for the Philippines to compel any state to accept it. If he can point to any mechanism by which we can compel a state to recognize anything, let me know. But the last I heard, sovereignty is they are entitled to think what they want,” he added.

Roque explained that the rulings of the arbitral tribunal for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) “is binding on parties to the Unclos, whether or not they accept the jurisdiction.”

China, which did not take part in the arbitration, ignored the ruling and went on to build artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly archipelago, topping some of them with runways and military installations.

But Roque said that under international law, the decision itself “is the implementation of the law, because that’s a statement of the rights of the parties, which cannot be extinguished and which does not depend on any country accepting its binding nature.”

“Whether or not they accept it, it’s there and that’s the binding nature of international law. Why is it binding on China whether or not it accepts? Because it’s there,” he added.

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No int’l enforcer

Roque said he saw no need for President Duterte to raise the arbitral court ruling with Beijing.

“Why should he raise it? You know, it’s there. You don’t see that there’s no international police that will enforce these international decisions. What is the self-implementing nature of international law is the fact that the decision exists, that’s it,” he said.

Roque said the arbitral ruling was not relevant to the issue of the Chinese conducting research in Philippine Rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau in the Philippine Sea, 250 km east of Isabela province, believed to be rich in resources.

Carpio said it would be “dumb” of the Philippines to allow China to explore Philippine Rise despite Beijing’s disrespect for the arbitral court’s ruling.

“The refusal of China to comply with the arbitral award of the [Hague tribunal] is not a ‘normal circumstance’ and thus the Philippines should refuse China’s request for [marine scientific research] in Benham Rise,” Carpio said in an e-mail to the Inquirer on Sunday, referring to Philippine Rise by its old name.

Mr. Duterte issued Executive Order No. 25 in May last year changing the name of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.

The United Nations officially recognized the rise as part of the Philippine continental shelf in 2012, giving the country sovereign rights to explore and exploit resources on the submerged plateau.

The rise became the subject of controversy early in March last year after Mr. Duterte said he had allowed Chinese survey vessels to go there as part of an agreement.

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TAGS: Antonio Carpio, Benham Rise, China-Philippines relations, Harry Roque, maritime dispute, Philippine Rise, Philippine Sea, South China sea, West Philippine Sea
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