MANILA, Philippines — Once again calling out President Rodrigo Duterte for "setting aside" the country's arbitral award in 2016, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Carpio said the president himself is a challenge to enforcing the landmark ruling.
Speaking at an online forum on Friday organized by the Philippine Bar Association, Carpio said the challenges to the enforcement of the arbitral come from China and Duterte.
Almost five years since the arbitral ruling was issued, Beijing still rejects the award while Duterte refuses to assert it.
"Shout out to President Duterte that China is not in possession of the WPS. Shout out loud so that President Duterte will wake up from his deep sleep under the kulambo and admit to the nation the truth — that China is not in possession of the WPS," Carpio said.
The retired magistrate listed instances wherein Duterte became a challenge for the enforcement of the arbitral ruling that invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.
- July 2016: Duterte announced that he was "setting aside" the award to secure Chinese loans and investments worth $22 to 24 billion but less than 5% of these have materialized so far.
- September 2016: Duterte announced that the Philippine Navy will not patrol the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea and that they would only patrol the territorial sea facing it.
- July 2019: Duterte said he entered into a verbal fishing agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, allowing Chinese fishermen to enter Philippine EEZ.
- July 2019: In his State of the Nation Address, Duterte said he is "inutile" when it comes to defending the West Philippine Sea.
- November 2018, July 2019, July 2020, April 2021: The president has repeatedly claimed that "China is in possession of the WPS."
Given these, Carpio suggested ways to enforce the ruling even without China's participation.
- All five ASEAN states (Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia) prejudiced by China's expansive maritime claims can enter into a convention on the South China Sea and in effect enforce the award by state practice.
- The so-called ASEAN 5 can conduct joint patrols in each other's EEZ.
- The Philippines can join freedom of navigation and overflight operations with the United States, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Australia and Canada in the West Philippine Sea.
- The Philippines can file an extended continental shelf claim off the coast of Luzon facing the West Philippine Sea before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
- Citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Philippines can urge Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam to question China's claim to their traditional fishing rights in their respective EEZs.
- The Philippines can sponsor a resolution before the UN General Assembly to demand that China comply with the 2016 arbitral ruling.
- Filipinos must correct Duterte's false mantra that "China is in possession of the WPS."