File photo shows Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. Carpio said Filipinos have the constitutional and civic duty to protect the nation’s territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea.
File photo
Carpio counters Duterte: Constitutional mandate to protect EEZ ‘not thoughtless, senseless’
( - June 29, 2019 - 11:15am

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday stressed that the government must protect the Philippines’ marine wealth, including its exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens as mandated by the Constitution amid a longstanding maritime row with China.

Carpio made the remarks after President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated the country was not ready to go to war against China and asserted that the “exclusivity” provision in the 1987 Constitution was “for the thoughtless and the senseless.”

Speaking to graduating students of the University of the Philippines - College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Carpio said Filipinos have the constitutional and civic duty to protect the nation’s territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea.

The magistrate added that “[i]t is clear that the specter of war is being raised only to intimidate the Filipino people into submitting to China’s encroachment of our EEZ.”

“The area of our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea, as affirmed with finality by the arbitral tribunal at The Hague, is larger than the total land area of all our islands put together. All the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in this huge maritime area belong exclusively to the Filipino people,” Carpio said.

“The Constitution mandates that the ‘use and enjoyment’ of these resources shall be reserved ‘exclusively’ for the Filipino people. The ‘use and enjoyment’ of these resources cannot be shared with, or given away, to foreign nationals,” he added.

“This exclusivity is not a ‘thoughtless and senseless’ provision in our Constitution as President Rodrigo Duterte has unfortunately characterized... China itself reserves all the natural resources in its own EEZ exclusively to Chinese citizens. Why will we not accept and protect this exclusivity when the rest of the world is accepting and protecting this exclusivity?” he continued.

China claims most of the waterway, through which billions in trade passes annually, and has rejected a 2016 international tribunal ruling that its claim was without basis in law.

A 1982 United Nations treaty on the law of the sea gives coastal states like the Philippines jurisdiction in exploring and exploiting marine resources over their exclusive economic zone, including waters extending 322 kilometres (200 miles) from the shore.

‘The correct recourse’ 

Duterte enjoys firm popular backing but his setting aside of the standoff with China over the resource-rich waterway is criticized as weakness by some in the Philippines.

The issue has flared up since a Chinese fishing trawler hit and sank a Filipino boat on June 9 near Reed Bank, an area that is within Manila's territory but which is also claimed by Beijing.

After a string of small street protests, as well as criticism from opposition politicians and former officials, Duterte lashed out while talking to reporters late Thursday.

"Impeach me? I will arrest all of them. I dare you to do it," Duterte said.

"I tell these stupid people, I said I deal with reality," he added.

Critics had raised the spectre of impeachment after Duterte, responding to the sinking controversy, said he allowed Chinese fishermen in Philippine waters because "we're friends".

In the same graduation speech on Saturday, Carpio said “the correct recourse is to protect our territorial integrity through the rule of law.”

“That is why when China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, we did not send the Philippine marines to retake Scarborough Shoal. We sent our lawyers to The Hague to protect our territorial integrity by invalidating China’s nine-dashed line before an arbitral tribunal under UNCLOS,” he said.

“We brought the resolution of the dispute to a forum where warships, warplanes, missiles and nuclear bombs do not count, and where the dispute would be resolved only in accordance with the rule of law. And we won an overwhelming victory. We thus protected our territorial integrity through the rule of law,” he added. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral with reports from Kristine Joy Patag and AFP

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