UNCLOS will collapse if Beijing succeeds in taking South China Sea — Carpio

UNCLOS will collapse if Beijing succeeds in taking South China Sea â Carpio
Chinese vessels are seen anchored in a satellite image taken on March 23 at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, around 320 km west of Bataraza in Palawan.
AFP / MAXAR Technologies

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international treaty adopted in 1982, will collapse if China succeeds in taking over the rest of the South China Sea, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.

Speaking at a virtual forum organized by Stratbase ADRi Wednesday, Carpio noted how Beijing has sought to use the "right is might" concept in the South China Sea "in glaring violation of UNCLOS."

"China is enforcing its claim outside the compulsory dispute settlement mechanism of UNCLOS, by authorizing its Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels fishing in the high seas or in their own exclusive economic zones, hundreds of nautical miles from China's own exclusive economic zone," Carpio said.

China continues to reject the July 2016 ruling of an UNCLOS-backed tribunal that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

With China's growing presence in the South China Sea, Carpio said nations of the world must unite to prevent Beijing from ending a rules-based maritime order in the region as this would start a naval arms race among coastal states.

"The nations of the world must unite to strongly push back China, otherwise if China succeeds in taking the South China Sea, or in making the South China Sea its own national lake, denying the application of UNCLOS in the South China Sea, then UNCLOS will collapse for other naval powers will also seize their new seas as their own possessions," Carpio added.

'Re-pivot foreign policy'

Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADRi, meanwhile called on the Duterte administration to re-pivot its foreign policy stance.

Manhit said the country's foreign policy should focus on "national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest" where "prime duty is to serve and protect the people" as stated in the 1987 Constitution.

"We support the move to forge stronger ties with regional partners and allies in maintaining regional peace and stability through joint efforts of maritime patrol and military exercises," Manhit said in the same forum.

Earlier on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. ordered the DFA to file another diplomatic protest after the National Task Force or the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported that 240 Chinese maritime militia vessels remain in the territorial waters of Kalayaan in Palawan as of April 11.

Just last week, the Philippines started filing daily diplomatic protests for "every day of delay" that China refuses to withdraw its vessels in the area.

Despite the daily diplomatic protests, the NTF-WPS said 240 Chinese maritime militia vessels are dispersed at the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks and Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.

Chinese warships from the People's Liberation Army Navy were also seen on Beijing's "big three" islands — Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora (Subi) Reefs — which the NTF-WPS described as contributing to the militarization of the area.

"The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from marine wealth in the EEZ," the NTF-WPS said. —  Patricia Lourdes Viray

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