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Carpio: World powers helping PH assert sea row ruling

/ 07:11 AM August 26, 2018

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

BAGUIO CITY—Several world powers have been asserting what the Duterte administration has refused to invoke: the 2016 international arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea and legitimized the Philippines’ maritime territory, according to acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

The United States, France, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan have deployed naval ships and airplanes near the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea in response to China’s militarization of the Spratlys, Carpio said on Saturday.

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“Let us not kid ourselves. China built those military bases in the Spratlys to enforce the nine-dash line—to grab 80 percent of our EEZ,” he told a forum in Baguio City of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Carpio was referring to several reefs turned by China into artificial islands and military outposts.

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‘Official map’

China published its “official map” in 2013 with a “nine-dash line” that demarcates its national boundaries that encroached upon the EEZs of the Philippines and other Spratly claimants, Carpio said.

Beijing refuses to recognize the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration to invalidate China’s nine-dash line and uphold the Philippines maritime claims.

The Duterte administration has said it would not invoke the ruling to improve ties with China in exchange for aid and investments.

Relations between the Philippines and China soured after the Aquino administration filed the arbitration case against Beijing in 2013.

Carpio said growing evidence showed that China intended to control the waterway from its military bases on the artificial islands and other bases.

“The European Union said it will conduct regular visible presence in the South China Sea. The French says it will patrol the sea to protect freedom of navigation. The British said when [they] finish two aircraft carriers in 2020, they will sail the South China Sea. Australia said its biggest naval task force will stay in the South China Sea,” Carpio said.

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Global implications

These “freedom of navigation” operations will help protect the Philippines’ 370-kilometer EEZ whose marine resources it has sovereign rights to exploit, he said.

Carpio said the arbitral victory had global implications because allowing China to defy the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea may embolden other superpowers to encroach upon the territories of smaller nations.

The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea, which, Carpio said, is the world’s most important international waterway through which yearly pass about $5.3 trillion worth of goods—half of the world’s shipboard trade—including 50 percent of China’s petroleum requirements.

The South China Sea is also the source of 12 percent of the world’s annual fish catch.

China officially asserted its nine-dash line claim in 2009 but then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could not protest because her administration had borrowed money from Beijing for the Northrail and the National Broadband Network projects, Carpio said.

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