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Carpio: Joint patrols in disputed sea with China ironic

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio addresses guests during the launching of his e-book titled "The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea" that questions China's historic claim to most of the South China Sea Thursday, May 4, 2017 in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines. Carpio said he will distribute it online to try to overcome China's censorship and reach its people. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Holding joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea with rival claimant China would be ironic, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Thursday.

Carpio said that agreeing to patrol the area with China would appear as an admission that the country's sovereign rights over the disputed waters are not secure.

"If we have, let's say, joint patrol in Benham Rise there will be no problem because China does not claim Benham Rise but since China claims the West Philippine Sea, it will be strange for us to agree that they patrol the area with us," Carpio said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

The magistrate is in favor of holding joint patrols with the United States rather than China. He said the US can assist the Philippines in protecting its exclusive economic zone, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

"That's the mandate of the Constitution so how do you protect you exclusive economic zone? The only way you can do it is to send patrols because if there are poachers there—Chinese fishing vessels poaching on our fish—the only way to stop them is to have patrols," Carpio said.

Carpio noted that only the US has offered the joint patrol with the Philippines in the region given that other Southeast Asian countries are also being encroached by China's nine-dash line over the South China Sea.

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"Malaysia is also being encroached by China in their nine-dash line so they themselves have to protect their exclusive economic zone and that's also the situation of Indonesia," the Supreme Court justice said.

These countries will probably patrol their own areas, Carpio added.

Japan, on the other hand, will not be able to conduct joint patrols with the Philippines due to the lack of a defense agreement between the two countries.

Vietnam as model

Carpio also noted that the approach of Vietnam on the South China Sea dispute should be taken as a model. Beijing and Hanoi maintain strong trade relations despite the maritime dispute.

"Vietnam is very strong in resisting China's encroachment but they continue to have very strong trade relations with China. A lot of Chinese companies operate in their export zones. It's not an "either-or" because they have they were able to separate these issues," Carpio said.

Vietnamese fishing vessels were recently spotted moored at Scarborough Shoal, keeping the ruling of an international arbitral tribunal alive.

On July 12, 2016, the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal based in the Hague issued its ruling that the shoal is a traditional fishing ground of neighbors the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

RELATED: Vietnamese presence in Panatag is good news, says Philippines envoy to China

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