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Carpio: Philippines can extend continental shelf claim in Luzon

"The real and practical option for the Philippines is to talk to China while taking measures to fortify their arbitral ruling," Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines can file an extended continental shelf claim beyond the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon to enforce the ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued the award favoring the Philippines, invalidating China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The Philippines, however, opted to set aside the ruling and engage in direct negotiations with Beijing to solve the dispute.

Carpio noted that the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf would likely award the extended continental shelf claim to the Philippines if China would not oppose it. This would be similar to the Philippines' ECS claim in Benham Rise which was unopposed.

"If China opposes our ECS claim, China would have a dilemma on what ground to invoke," Carpio said.

China cannot invoke its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea as the CLCS is bound by the arbitral tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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Beijing also cannot claim overlapping extended continental shelf in Luzon as it would be an admittance that the Philippines has a 200-nautical mile EEZ in the region, negating the nine-dash line.

The Philippines can also enter into sea boundary agreements with Vietnam and Malaysia on overlapping EEZ on the extended continental shelf claim in the Spratly Islands.

Such agreements would implement part of the arbitral ruling by state practice that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an EEZ.

Another measure to enforce the arbitration would be for the Philippines to initiate an agreement among all Association of Southeast Asian Nations disputant states such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia to declare that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an EEZ that could overlap among said countries.

"Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them leaving only the territorial disputes," Carpio said.

The declaration would isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratly Islands.

The Philippines can file a new case before the UNCLOS tribunal if China starts reclamation activities in the Scarborough Shoal as it would destroy the traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen, Carpio said.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also urged the Philippine government to exhaust all diplomatic avenues to promote the arbitration ruling.

"We should seek cooperation from like-minded states. We should be ready to approach the UN General Assembly to appeal to the global village of nations," Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario stressed that despite its friendlier face for the past year, there has been no restraint in China's militarization and unlawful activity in the West Philippine Sea.

RELATED: Philippines urged to exhaust all diplomatic avenues to promote arbitral ruling

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