MANILA, Philippines – July 12, 2019, marks the third anniversary of the Philippine’s arbitral win against China’s historical claims on the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration’s landmark ruling thus invalidated China’s so-called ‘Nine-Dash Line’ – the undefined demarcation line that encircles as much as 90 percent of the disputed waters in the area.
The Duterte administration downplayed the victory in hopes of building stronger ties with China and preferred to offer diplomacy rather than further escalating the tension by sending military troops to the disputed waters, even amid reports of harassment against Filipino fishermen and the Chinese destroying and exploiting the Philippines’ marine resources.
Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal expressed deep concern on the continuous deterioration and massive destruction of the marine environment in the West Philippine Sea.
“This has to stop and we have to get serious,” the Director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea appealed.
“And we’re not talking about going to war. We’re talking about simple things like stopping the destruction of a common pool resource that would benefit us all,” he added.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, meanwhile, acknowledge that war is not an option in the West Philippine Sea row as the Constitution forbids.
But Carpio blamed the Duterte administration’s inaction, accusing it of using such provision of the law to instill fear among Filipinos as if the Philippines has no other option but to obey with what China offers.
“This administration has done nothing whatsoever to enforce the arbitral award,” Carpio said.
“I don’t see positive in the enforcement of the award,” he added.
The magistrate appealed to President Duterte not to formalize his verbal agreement with China’s Xi Jinping in his upcoming state of the nation address (SONA) that allows Chinese fishermen to fish within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country in the WPS.
Carpio said, once Duterte formalizes the agreement, the Philippines would be bound and that would weaken the Arbitral ruling.
“If the President will confirm it in his SONA, I mean, we cannot get out of that anymore. So, we’re bound by that, we have to honor that. So, that means China can fish in an area 59 times larger than Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio argued.
Malacañang stressed that the President considers his agreement with Xi as legally binding, but Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. insisted that it cannot be executed because there is no written document to attest the deal.
For her part, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said the issue will still depend on how the President delivers the matter during his SONA.
She calls on Filipinos to stand for the country’s rights no matter what happens.
“Let us not be scared by all the propaganda that we hear. Because if we do, walang mangyayari (nothing will happen),” Morales said.
“Be brave,” she concluded. – with details from Harlene Delgado
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