Justice Carpio enlightens Letranites about PH-CH territorial dispute

August 21, 2018

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio gives his insights on the relationship of the PH and CH during the forum organized by Letran Politicvs and Political and Legal Studies area. Photo by Enrique Agcaoili.

By Angel Grace Untalan

Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio discussed the economic, legal, and political implication of the dispute involving the Philippines’ territorial waters that are being claimed by the Chinese government to the Letranites, last August 20.

The lecture entitled ‘PHL-CHN Relations: The Creation of Good Ties’  held at the St. Thomas Hall was organized by the Letran Politicvs together with the faculty members of Political and Legal Studies of Letran.

An important waterway

According to Justice Carpio, South China Sea is one of the richest sources of fisheries in the world, accounting to 12% of the total annual fish catch in the world that costs about 21.8B dollars a year.

Aside from fisheries, this waterway is also a vital element of maritime trade especially for countries leading in terms of exports such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

More so, it is also rich in methane hydrates that he believes to be the fuel of the future— a gas that can feed power plants that may possibly power China’s economy for 100 years.

As such, the core dispute is how China claims 85.7% of the entire South China Sea and almost 80% of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

During a discussion on China’s creeping expansion, Carpio shared that he believes that the grand design of China is to project power and control the South China Sea for economic and military purposes.

"China wants to be the third country in the world with a second-strike capability, and they are almost there, but they have a problem because they have to cross the Bashi Channel while the Americans can just fire their missiles because their missiles have a longer range,” the Acting Chief Justice said.

False claims

Justice Carpio discussed salient points on The Hague’s rulings and explained how there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line.

“China has this propaganda that they own the South China Sea because they were the first to discover it, they're first to exploit the resources; that's totally false,” he said.

Regular reports containing maps delivered to the Vatican by various religious orders in the Philippines during the Spaniard’s occupation proved to be essential in strengthening our stance in the tribunal, as we have presented the very first scientific map of the Philippines that mark our territories.

“We have the oldest map showing that the Spratlys belong to the Philippines,” said Carpio; citing the map created by Fr. Vincenzo Coronelli in 1688 as well as the map that showed Panacot in 1734, now commonly known as Scarborough Shoal made by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde— tagged as the mother of all Philippine maps.

Therefore, he urges the Philippine government to work on debunking China's historical claims because people from all over the world were starting to believe this narrative.

“Protest the encroachment of waters, give it to the Chinese embassy, that's effective, it doesn’t cost you anything, but it preserves your rights,” Justice Carpio encouraged.

“Very important to protest, otherwise, it would have been a technical knockout,” he added.

He also emphasized that the protest is actually applicable to maritime disputes, contrary to the claims of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that a protest should only be pursued if it was land that is disputed and not the sea.

“If you lose territorial sea, you lose a territory. Besides, Sandy Cay now is land territory because it’s above water, [so] even by his own standard that if it’s land you must protest, but this is land already,” Carpio explained.

On President Duterte’s claims that the people should just ignore the missiles on the military bases brought upon by China in the territory, he believes that the only purpose of these is to enforce the nine-dashed line as their territory and stop us from surveying whilst preventing us from exploiting our own EEZ.

He also refuted the statements made by the President that Sandy Cay was not being invaded— that China was just surrounding it with their fishing vessels, and it’s ‘just there’, not claiming anything.

Carpio invoked China’s 2009 claims on the South China Sea territories which includes Sandy Cay, “So if China goes there, it is there to enforce the claim."

He added that it’s not only about actual troops marching that indicates plans of invasion, “This is a different kind of territory, what's capable of sovereign ownership, therefore capable of invasion."



Staying true to the ruling 

Other problems might arise if China successfully claims the South China Sea as there is a risk of inciting other countries to unjustly claim other territorial waters such as the Arctic Ocean and the Indian Ocean which may result to the collapse of the law of the sea.

Naturally, the Chinese government will not comply with the ruling anytime soon, but he believes that it will just take time.

"They're like us, they're good people, the only problem is they've been thought only one truth and it’s false, and they believe that, so we have to expose them to the other truth.”

“We have to educate everybody and the world because we are just relying on law and reason here to convince the world to help us convince China,” he added.

He is optimistic that the next administration will be more inclined to enforce the ruling,

“Let’s educate ourselves, educate everybody in the country, because once everybody in this country know that we have sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, no president can waive that. Nobody will allow anyone to waive that.”

He added: “I respect the constitutional prerogatives of the President to conduct foreign policy, but he does not have the power to waive our sovereign rights. That sovereign rights belong to the people and only the people can waive them.”

He also noted the Philippines’ lack of future plans to contend against looming territorial expansions by China in comparison to other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

"They have all these kinds of scenarios, we don't have that kind of forward thinking here, and we need that."

The acting Chief Justice reiterated, however, that war is never an option, but he considers this as the ‘gravest external threat to the Philippines since World War II’

The US-China dispute 

Carpio denied that the Philippines is taking sides on the dispute between the two countries regarding the EEZs under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), "We are just defending our own resources, China is grabbing it, [while] the dispute between China and the US is a dispute over freedom of navigation and overflight."

However, he believes that the assertions made by the United States should not be taken lightly by the Philippines as it helps our case, “They are saying there are EEZs in South China Sea, well, if it’s an exclusive economic zone, it’s the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, [kasi] we are the adjacent coastal state.”

“They are actually helping us, but we refuse to acknowledge it,” he added.

What if China goes to war

He assured that China will never start a war because of this dispute, "It could escalate into a nuclear war, nobody wins, and China will be totally destroyed.”

“China doesn’t want to go to war especially with the Philippines because the Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty. The last thing that China would want is to give the US a legal excuse to intervene in the South China Sea dispute,” he added.

He explains that China has adopted a three warfare strategy to control the South China Sea without firing a single shot and that includes the assertion of a historical narrative, the refute of being governed by the law of the sea, and intimidation through the façade of having hundreds of huge air and naval bases as well as warships and warplanes that makes it seem that we should just comply due to the fact that we will not stand a chance in an actual fight.

As the tribunal already debunked the first two warfare strategies, he left a response on how we should deal with the third strategy, "Magpapatakot ba tayo? If we allowed ourselves to be scared, then we've lost 80% of our exclusive economic zones.”

Worthwhile discussion

Politicvs Vice President and Project Head John Renan Francisco revealed in an interview with The LANCE that their organization is doing their best to make sure that every event they will conduct is considered as a flagship event.

“As long as we are able to influence the minds of people, we consider every event on that position,” he said.

Asked if his initial perspective regarding the PH-China dispute was changed after the lecture, he responded: “No changes at all, actually. What he presented to us were just facts regarding our country's claim on the said issue. Like him, I respect the rules and principles given by the international law and therefore, my stand regarding the issue depends on what the international law says.”

To end, the Letran Politicvs assures that they will continue to uphold the real meaning of ‘Patria’ by giving these kinds of lectures.

 “The hope is always there that all the events that the organization will implement will always be remembered,” Francisco said.

The lecture educated the audience on the importance of the disputed South China Sea and provided insights on how we should take actions to protect our rights on what Justice Carpio considers ‘a very important waterway.’