MANILA, Philippines—The country made a wise choice in taking its maritime dispute with China on the West Philippine Sea to an international arbitral tribunal “where warships, fighter planes and missiles do not count” and which may take two to three years to resolve, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Thursday.
But Carpio said the country must also build a “credible self-defense force” which it had neglected to do and caused it to lose to China Mischief Reef in 1995, Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and “most likely Ayungin Shoal in the near future.”
Speaking before the Philippine Bar Association, Carpio said the move taken by Manila to go to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal had eliminated the military advantage of China and ensured that the outcome of the dispute is “in accordance to the rule of law.”
“It was a wise decision, but one borne out of necessity because it was actually the only viable option to the Philippines,” he said, reading from a paper he prepared, titled, “The Rule of Law in the West Philippine Sea Dispute.”
He cited the failure of the country to improve its naval assets, being an archipelago with extensive coastlines and a vast exclusive economic zone.
“To remain a sovereign and independent nation, to maintain our territorial integrity, to avoid further humiliation, and to maintain our self-respect as a nation, we must build and maintain a credible self-defense force,” Carpio said, noting there was “simply no alternative to this.”
“No nation can remain sovereign, independent and free for long without maintaining a credible self-defense force, even if international law and world opinion are on its side,” he said.
Carpio said the international arbitral tribunal was the viable solution to the dispute, especially since the country could not invoke the Philippine-United States Mutual Defense Treaty.
He said the United States had made it clear that “the islands, reefs and rocks in the South China Sea are outside the scope of the treaty.”