By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
THE WORLD’S naval powers are doing the “heavy lifting” in enforcing the arbitral tribunal award on the South China Sea dispute two years since its ruling, without the support of its primary beneficiary the Philippines, Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio said on Monday.
In his speech at the Kasarinlan Foreign Policy Forum, Mr. Carpio said the navies and the air forces of countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Canada, India and Japan have been sailing and have been flying in the South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation and overflight.
“These naval and air operations enforce the part of the Award affirming the existence of high seas and EEZs (exclusive economic zone) in the South China Sea. This is the necessary consequence of the naval and air operations of the world’s naval powers in the South China Sea,” he said.
“Fortunately for the Filipino people, there is clearly enforcement of a core part of the award by the world’s naval powers, even if there is inexplicable reluctance on the part of the Duterte administration to enforce the award. The heavy lifting in the enforcement of the award is being done by the world’s naval powers with practically no support whatsoever from the Philippines, the state that overwhelmingly won the Award and the state that stands to benefit immensely from the enforcement of the award,” he added.
Mr. Carpio, who was part of the legal team in the arbitration case, made the statement three days before the arbitral tribunal award on the South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China marks its second anniversary on Thursday.
On July 12, 2016, the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, Netherlands, invalidated China’s nine-dash line argument claim over the South China Sea. Some features in the region were also declared part of the Philippines’ EEZ.
Mr. Carpio appealed to the public “to preserve and protect the Award so the next administration can enforce the award” since the Duterte administration has chosen to set it aside. He said the award had expanded the high seas in the region, where its resources became part of the “global commons, belonging to all mankind,” contrary the China’s exclusive claim.
Mr. Carpio also countered the reasons cited by those who believed the Philippines should not take action in enforcing the award, including the statements of President Rodrigo R. Duterte citing war as a consequence of confronting China on the maritime issue.
“War is not an option and has never been an option. Our Constitution prohibits war as an instrument of national policy, which means it is unconstitutional to go to war to enforce the award,” he said, noting that war also violates international laws.
He said arbitration was a peaceful means of settling disputes as was expressly provided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He also advised against the Philippines distancing itself from the South China Sea dispute.
“Those who hold this view are totally blind to China’s blatant physical seizure of Philippine maritime zones and territory in the West Philippine Sea…. The core dispute in the South China Sea is China’s appropriation of the high seas which belong to all mankind, and more importantly, China’s seizure of the EEZs of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. If today China abandons its illegal appropriation of the high seas and stops its unlawful seizure of the EEZs of these coastal states, there will be no simmering dispute in the South China Sea,” he said.
In a related development, senators in the minority bloc filed Senate Resolution No. 779 on Monday seeking an investigation into the successive “technical stops” of Chinese military aircraft in Davao City’s airport, noting the lack of agreement between the Philippines and China over the use of the airport for the Chinese military.
“The successive occurrence of Chinese military planes making technical stops in Davao City raises the question of whether the Constitution’s proscription against the presence of foreign troops in the country is being violated by the Duterte administration,” the senators said in a statement.
The senators also filed another resolution, Senate Resolution No. 780, calling for an investigation into the Duterte administration’s plan to air Filipino-dubbed Chinese shows and movies in state-run People’s Television Network (PTV 4), raising concerns on the danger of spreading Chinese propaganda in state-run media.