China may be sued for destroying marine life

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines can file a new case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration for damages in destroying the marine environment in the West Philippine Sea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said yesterday.

Carpio pointed out the July 12 decision by the United Nations tribunal does not include granting of monetary award to the Philippines by China for destroying its marine environment.

The Philippines submitted evidence to the tribunal and raised six major issues, accusing China of causing severe harm to the marine environment in building its artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Spratlys.

Manila, however, did not ask for monetary award from Beijing.

The tribunal ruled China violated its obligation under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect and preserve the marine environment when it dredged and built islands on the seven reefs within the Philippines’ EEZ.

The tribunal also pointed out China failed to prevent its fishermen from harvesting endangered species in the Spratlys and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“We did not pray for monetary award and none was granted, but we can file because we said China severely damaged the marine environment and the tribunal agreed and even expanded on that. We can file a new case,” Carpio said at a symposium at De La Salle University in Manila.

Carpio cited the Nicaragua vs United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ said the US violated the territorial integrity of Nicaragua and ordered it to negotiate the amount of damage with the Central American nation.

Nicaragua went back to the tribunal saying they had to continue the processing and quantify the amount. 

The US offered a way out through economic aid provided to Nicaragua in exchange for withdrawing the case it filed before the ICJ. 

“We can do the same,” Carpio said. “We can file a case to quantify damages. That has not been resolved but we can file a new case.”

Carpio said China should comply with the ruling and cease all its artificial island building activities destroying the marine environment. 

“There is no world policeman who will enforce it. Countries voluntarily agree with ruling. The tribunal said you can’t do that. You can’t destroy marine environment. It’s the legal obligation of China to comply under UNCLOS,” Carpio said. 

He proposed that the Spratlys be declared a marine protected area. Carpio cited an agreement between Israel and Jordan to address the overlapping claim in Red Sea by declaring Red Sea Marine Park that the two countries now jointly manage.

“This is very successful. This happened already,” he said.

Carpio said an agreement is a “win-win” solution for all claimant states if they suspend claims and declare Spratlys a marine protected area.

The tribunal ruling settled the maritime issue but the territorial issue as to who owns the reefs and islands was not settled, having no jurisdiction over sovereignty issue. – With Jaime Laude

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