Failure to protest China's bombers mean consent to militarization â Carpio
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio urges the Philippine government to formally protest China's increasing militarization of the South China Sea.
AP/Bullit Marquez, File

Failure to protest China's bombers mean consent to militarization — Carpio

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 22, 2018 - 12:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — Urging the Philippine government to formally protest China's deployment of bomber aircraft in the South China Sea, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said that failure to do so means the country is consenting to the militarization in the region.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force recently landed a H-6K long range bomber, which can carry nuclear-armed cruise missiles, on Woody Island — China's largest outpost on the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

Carpio warned that Beijing's bomber could also land and take-off from any of its "big three" islands in the Spratly group — Mischief Reef, Subi Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, which are all within the Kalayaan Island Group.

RELATED: Filipinos should take a stand on South China Sea, ex-DFA chief says

"Failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters and resources within the nine-dashed line form part of Chinese territory," Carpio said in a statement released Tuesday.

A formal protest would also preserve the Philippines' sovereignty over Fiery Cross Reef, which China has transformed into a fortified airbase and is believed to be Beijing's intelligence hub in the Spratlys.

In July 2016, United Nations-backed tribunal ruled that Fiery Cross Reef is a rock, which is allowed only a 12-nautical mile territorial sea and has no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

RELATED: How the Hague court ruled on the Philippines’s 15 arguments

According to Carpio, a protest would also assert the country's sovereignty over Subi Reef, which is part of the territorial sea of Pag-asa Island, and Mischief Reef, which is well within the country's exclusive economic zone.

"China's construction of huge air and naval bases, and now the introduction of nuclear-armed strategic bombers, are all designed to intimidate into submission other claimant states, including the Philippines, to accept the nine-dashed line as China's national boundary in the South China Sea," Carpio said.

The arbitral tribunal already invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea but the Duterte administration had set aside the landmark ruling in its bid to forge stronger ties with Beijing.

The tribunal also ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea when it constructed artificial islands within the Philippines' EEZ.

"Any self-respecting sovereign state will immediately formally protest such encroachment on its sovereignty and sovereign rights. The Philippines must do no less. A formal protest is recognized by the United Nations Charter as a peaceful and legitimate purpose," he said.

The Philippines should also coordinate with other claimant states and concerned states in resisting China's militarization as it is a threat to freedom of navigation and overflight.

RELATED: China: No need to overinterpret bomber in South China Sea

Vietnam, also a claimant state in the Paracel Islands, had called out China for its deployment of strategic bombers on the disputed territory.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said that the flights “increase tensions, cause regional instabilities and are not good for maintaining a peaceful, stable and cooperative environment in the East Sea."

“Vietnam demands that China stop these activities, cease militarization of the area, and strictly respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

The Philippines, on the other hand, refuses to issue an independent statement regarding the issue and reiterated the ASEAN's joint statement on the South China Sea released earlier this year.

"I think in dealing with China, it's best that we speak as one as ASEAN so that's why we are reiterating the ASEAN statement calling for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea," presidential spokesperon Harry Roque said.

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