MANILA, Philippines - United States President Barrack Obama deserves the highest Philippine award for standing by the country in its territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said yesterday.
“For telling China to comply with the arbitral ruling, I nominate Obama for the highest Philippine award and to name him ‘Defender of the West Philippine Sea,’” the magistrate said in a text message.
He was referring to Obama’s reaffirming his support for a ruling by an international arbitral court against China’s massive claim in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, during the ASEAN summit in Laos. Obama said China cannot just ignore the ruling issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague.
Carpio has vigorously campaigned both in the Philippines and abroad to debunk Beijing’s expansive maritime claim and strengthen Manila’s case before the PCA.
Under the Honors Code of the Philippines contained in Executive Order No. 236, the highest civilian order the President may confer on Obama is the Quezon Service Cross.
Earlier, Carpio said the Philippines’ territorial issue with China and with other claimants in the West Philippine Sea is far from over despite its victory in the arbitration case.
He stressed the PCA ruling is only a platform from which the Philippines can further raise its position in the dispute.
The magistrate said he believes the move of the administration of President Duterte to initiate bilateral talks with China could be a viable tool to ease tension and win concessions for the Philippines.
Carpio said a possible bilateral agreement with China would be the most logical option for making China follow the ruling.
Should China continue to refuse to honor the award and proceed with its ban on Filipino fishermen in the disputed area, Carpio said the government can still pursue other options.
He said Manila may go back to the PCA and seek the blocking of China’s application for permit to explore the seabed before the international seabed authority.
In its award issued last July, the PCA upheld major submissions of the Philippines, including the declaration of China’s nine-dash line as contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and with no basis in law.
The award also affirmed the Philippines’ stance that China’s move to shoo away Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal was also unlawful.
It also declared Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank as “part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines, and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”
The PCA ruling also held that China violated its obligations under UNCLOS to protect and preserve the maritime environment when it built artificial islands over Panganiban Reef without necessary permission from the Philippines.