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Charter requires patrolling of EEZ

Australia is perplexed. Philippine President Duterte has said he would not be joining US patrols through contested areas of the South China Sea. Yet it was his country that initiated the push back on China’s power in the region. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop seeks clarification. The Australian press reports:

“Duterte, who has called for US troop removal from Mindanao and buying Russian and Chinese weapons, said he did not want his country involved in US freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

“In July the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China’s claim of historic right within the areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ had no legal basis.

“Australia has endured the wrath of Beijing for calling for it to abide by the Hague ruling and supporting the Philippines’ right to take the case to arbitration in the first place.”

Bishop said Duterte should be asked why he does not want to enforce the ruling although his country brought the case to the court.

“’The question should be directed to the Philippines as to what they are doing to reinforce the arbitration findings,’ Bishop told reporters. ‘Aren’t you surprised that the Philippines is now not going to traverse the territory that the arbitration has just found is in its EEZ [exclusive economic zone]? And that the arbitration found that China was in breach of the Philippines’ sovereignty? And now the Philippines withdraws from those contested areas the arbitration has found were within its EEZ.”

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The STAR reported last week:

“President Duterte said Tuesday he won’t allow government forces to conduct joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with foreign powers, apparently scrapping a deal his predecessor reached with the US military earlier this year.

“The remarks were the latest from a Philippine president who has had an uneasy relationship with the US but also has tried to mend relations with China strained over South China Sea disputes.

“Duterte said he wanted only Philippine territorial waters, up to 12 nautical miles offshore, to be patrolled by Filipino forces, but not other offshore areas that are contested. He added he opposes Filipino forces accompanying foreign powers like the US and China in joint patrols which could entangle the Philippines in hostilities.

“’We do not go into a patrol or join any other army from now on because I do not want trouble,’ Duterte said. ‘I do not want to ride gung-ho style there with China or with America. I just want to patrol our territorial waters.’

“Like other security pronouncements, Duterte did not provide details, but his rejection of joint patrols apparently goes against such an arrangement announced in April by the US and Philippine defense chiefs.

“While visiting Manila, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter disclosed for the first time in a news conference with then-Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that US ships had carried out sea patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea, a somewhat rare move.

“Carter insisted the US did not intend to be provocative and was ‘trying to tamp down tensions here.’ But Gazmin said he expected that US forces, ‘with their presence here, will deter uncalled-for actions by the Chinese.’”

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Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio comments:

“1. The Constitution mandates the State to protect the nation’s EEZ.

“2. The Constitution defines the national territory to include the nation’s EEZ.

“3. The Constitution tasks the Armed Forces to protect the national territory, which includes the nation’s EEZ.

“4. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“5. The President has taken an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution.

“6. Thus, the President has the constitutional duty to protect the nation’s EEZ.

“7. The Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea is no longer disputed since an UNCLOS Tribunal had already ruled with finality that China’s nine-dashed lines have no legal basis, and China has no overlapping EEZ with the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea. China is merely a squatter in the West Philippine Sea, with no legal right to remain there. To say that the Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea is still disputed is to effectively overturn the ruling of the UNCLOS Tribunal. By remaining in our EEZ, China is committing a hostile act against the Philippines. By patrolling its own EEZ, as affirmed by an UNCLOS Tribunal, the Philippines cannot be considered committing any hostile act against China or any other country.

“8. The only way to protect the Philippine EEZ from foreign poachers is to send patrols to the EEZ. Otherwise, foreign fishing vessels will poach billions of pesos in fish from our EEZ. Under UNCLOS, the Philippines has the exclusive right to all the fish within its EEZ.

“9. The Malampaya gas field, which supplies 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon, is located 43 nautical miles from Palawan, beyond our 12-nautical mile territorial sea but within our EEZ. We must secure Malampaya, and the only way to do that is to patrol the EEZ area around Malampaya.

“10. In sum, the Constitution mandates and national interest dictates that the Philippines, on its own, patrol its EEZ.”

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