Carpio warns China will soon install air, naval base on Scarborough Shoal

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Carpio warns China will soon install air, naval base on Scarborough Shoal
This Oct. 29, 2016 satellite image shows a Chinese coast guard vessel maintaining constant presence at the mouth of the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
CSIS / AMTI via DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — After hinting that it will impose as air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, Beijing would soon reclaim Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned.

Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground as ruled by a United Nations-backed tribunal in 2016, lies 124 nautical miles off the coast of Zambales. 

In an interview with ANC's "Headstart" Thursday morning, Carpio noted that Beijing needs military bases to control the South China Sea.

Beijing's expansive claims in the South China Sea comes from its nine-dash line map, which the arbitral ruling already invalidated.

"If they really want to control the South China Sea they have to put up an air and naval base on Scarborough Shoal because there's a hole in their radar missile coverage," Carpio told ANC's "Headstart."

The retired magistrate also noted that Beijing had installed military outposts in the Paracels and Spratlys. However, China needs a base in the northeastern section of the contested waterway, which is near Scarborough Shoal.

"When China recently hinted that it will impose an ADIZ over the South China Sea... that means one thing — China will soon reclaim Scarborough Shoal to put up an air and naval base," Carpio said.

Beijing delaying South China Sea code

Carpio also warned that nothing will happen to the negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) between China and ASEAN countries, including the Philippines.

Beijing would only agree to a code of conduct after they have reclaimed Scarborough Shoal and completed their island-building activities in the South China Sea, according to the retired magistrate.

"That means nobody else can build and that will legitimize what China has done in the South China Sea. All these artificial islands of China will be legitimized... so that's why China's been delaying this code of conduct because it has not yet completed its island-building," Carpio said.

US an ally in defending Scarborough Shoal

On the termination of the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Carpio believes the military convinced President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend the country's withdrawal from the defense pact.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that he sent a notification to the US Embassy suspending the termination of the VFA for six months, which can be extended to another six months. The VFA was supposed to end in August.

Carpio criticized the administration's earlier move of withdrawing from the VFA, calling Duterte's foreign and defense policy in "total disarray."

"Suddenly we realize that because we notified the US, we are terminating the VFA we are suddenly without an ally to protect and defend Scarborough Shoal," Carpio said.

READ: Timeline: Constant US troop presence amid Duterte's changing moodsBeyond Bato's US visa: A look at issues previously raised against VFA

"That means we have not thought through the termination of the VFA. We just terminated on a whim. That is not how to conduct foreign policy, that is not how to defend our country," he added.

Duterte earlier said he would terminate the VFA if the US fails to "correct" the cancellation of Sen. Bato dela Rosa's visa. 

Malacañang later on insisted that this move was not made on a whim but was impelled by "a series of disrespectful acts" by some US senators, who have been vocal against human rights violations linked to Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs.

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