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Duterteâs vow to defend West Philippine Sea lauded, supported
The most senior magistrate of the Supreme Court, who has vocally criticized the Duterte administration’s supposed inaction on the Chinese buildup in contested areas in the South China Sea, said the President took the correct stance when he said the government would defend the country’s interest.
Miguel de Guzman

Duterte’s vow to defend West Philippine Sea lauded, supported

(The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has lauded President Duterte’s vow to protect the sovereignty of the nation in the West Philippine Sea during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

The most senior magistrate of the Supreme Court, who has vocally criticized the Duterte administration’s supposed inaction on the Chinese buildup in contested areas in the South China Sea, said the President took the correct stance when he said the government would defend the country’s interest.

“That’s the correct position. We should never give up our rights there,” he said in an ambush interview after the SONA at the House of Representatives.

Carpio also agreed with Duterte that the Philippines can still be friendly with China even without surrendering its territorial claims against the economic and military giant.

“That can be reconciled. We can continue to trade with China while we continue to defend our sovereign rights,” the magistrate explained.

“There’s no incompatibility there because we have other relations with China. We have trade. We have cultural and all other matters. But we should not do anything that will waive our rights to the West Philippine Sea,” he pointed out.

Still, Carpio believes there is a need for the Chief Executive to elaborate and specify actions he would take to defend the nation’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

“It has to be elaborated how. How do we regain our sovereign rights? How do we defend it?” he asked.

“If China builds and we don’t protest then we are waiving (our rights). So we should keep on protesting because to protest doesn’t cost anything, it’s just a piece of paper but you preserve your sovereignty over those islands,” Carpio stressed.

Just last month, Carpio urged the administration to file a protest and seek monetary compensation from China for preventing Filipinos from fishing in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

He also has been pushing for the enforcement of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 in favor of the Philippines against China’s claims over South China Sea territories.

In the ruling, the PCA invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim over most of the South China Sea.

It also held that Beijing violated its commitment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in building artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The tribunal ruled that Panatag Shoal is a rock, which is allowed only a 12-nautical mile territorial sea and has no EEZ or continental shelf.

It has found that China failed to respect traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen by preventing access to the shoal after May 2012.

The PCA also ruled that China breached its obligations under the UNCLOS by operating its law enforcement vessels in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal, creating serious risk of collision and danger to Philippine vessels and personnel.  

DND, AFP back Duterte

The Department of National Defense (DND), along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said while they are always ready and willing to defend the country’s territorial rights over the West Philippine Sea, they fully support Duterte’s diplomatic tack in managing the country’s maritime dispute with China.

Director Arsenio Andolong, DND spokesman, issued this statement yesterday in support of the President’s SONA declaration wherein he informed the Filipino people that the  country’s re-energized relations with China through diplomacy has led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between the two countries.

“Having said that, however, the DND and the AFP will defend our country’s sovereignty with all the means and resources available to us, if and when the need arises,” Andolong said.

The President also declared in his SONA that improved relationship with Beijing does not mean his administration is abandoning its commitment to defend the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, stressed that the military is consistent in disposing its duties and functions as protector of the people and state.

This mandate, he said, is shown in the military’s unwavering stand in securing the country’s maritime and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Arevalo added regular maritime and aerial patrols are being conducted over the disputed region in support of the AFP’s continuing deployment of ground troops to secure and protect the country’s interests within the Kalayaan Island Group.

The DND said it is also currently upgrading the internal and external capabilities of the military.

These military upgrade projects – for the Army, Air Force and Navy – are all contained in a government-approved multibillion Horizon 1, Horizon 2 and Horizon 3 modernization program.

In fact, the Navy is already expecting delivery next year of two fully capable submarine attack helicopters while plans are also afoot for the acquisition of submarines and additional missile-firing gunboats. – With Edu Punay, Jaime Laude  

ANTONIO CARPIO STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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