Carpio: PH needs President who puts Filipinos first instead of China
MANILA, Philippines—The country needed a President who would put Filipinos first and fight for their interests in the West Philippine Sea, according to retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday (April 29) in an apparent reaction to President Rodrigo Duterte.
Carpio made the statement hours after Duterte, at a televised public briefing, riled at the former justice for taking the administration to task over its response to China incursions in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Carpio is one of the legal luminaries who secured the Philippines’ landmark victory over China at an international arbitral tribunal in The Hague.
“You know, I just have one question for Carpio, including Albert,” said Duterte, referring to former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario. “If you’re bright, why did we lose the West Philippine Sea?” he said in Filipino.
“That’s during your time. During your time when you were in power,” said Duterte. He was referring to the 2012 standoff with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal which had prompted the Philippines to take China to court.
“Why did we lose? What did you do?” said Duterte. “Not the arbitral ruling. The arbi..that’s really ours,” he said. “That’s not needed.”
“What did you do in government. That is, that’s simple,” the President said.
“Enough with Carpio’s posturing. That’s nonsense,” Duterte said.
The international arbitral ruling in The Hague in 2016 dismissed China’s mythical nine-dash claim to most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, as invalid and baseless. China, according to the ruling, violated Philippine sovereignty and Filipinos’ right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea.
Beijing considered the ruling as trash and does not recognize it.
Carpio said although as justice, he was not part of the Executive branch of government, he recommended elevating the case against China to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) “to assail the validity of Chna’s nine-dash line which is China’s basis in claiming the West Philippine Sea.”
The arbitral ruling is now commonly cited by Duterte’s top diplomats and officials in their official pronouncements against China in the West Philippine Sea.
But Carpio said Duterte, who had assumed office when the arbitral ruling was issued in July 2016, set it aside in exchange for economic investments from China worth $22 billion. The investments have yet to fully materialize, though.
“Today, less than 5 percent of those loans and investments have materialized even as President Duterte is already leaving office next year,” he said.
Carpio added that Duterte even welcomed China to fish in the Philippines’ EEZ “despite admitting that there is not enough fish stock there for both Filipino and Chinese fishermen.”
He also chided Duterte’s silence when China “seized” Sandy Cay, located 2 nautical miles from Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, the largest Philippine-occupied outpost in the Kalayaan Island Group.
“China’s seizure of Sandy Cay has resulted in the loss of one-third of our territorial sea in Pagasa, a loss of a maritime area three times larger than the land area of Quezon City,” Carpio said.
Despite all these, Duterte has declared “I simply love President Xi Jinping,” Carpio said.
Duterte, at the same speech on Wednesday night, called China a “good friend” despite the continued incursion of Chinese vessels in Philippines’ EEZ.
He said the Philippines owed a “great debt” to China for vaccines, but would not compromise on the West Philippine Sea.
“We have many debts of gratitude, including the vaccines,” said Duterte. “So China, let it be known, is a good friend and we don’t want trouble with them, especially war,” he said.
“But there are things that are not really subject to a compromise. I hope they will understand but I have the interest of my country also to protect,” the President said.
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