The need for pushback on sovereignty
Justice Antonio Carpio receives a certificate of appreciation after his Adrian Cristobal lecture at Ateneo, with (from left) Susan Lara, Tetchie Cristobal, Celina Cristobal, Aryn Cristobal and Che Cristobal.

The need for pushback on sovereignty

KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - March 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio has been patiently explaining the West Philippine Sea sovereignty issues over the past five years. Such heroic advocacy has drawn resounding agreement and admiration from Filipinos not beholden to the so-called DDS cult.

On Feb. 27, Justice Carpio treated yet another receptive audience at the Ateneo’s Leung Hall Auditorium to a cogent presentation, titled “Defending Philippine Rights in the West Philippine Sea” — as the honored speaker for the 10th Adrian E. Cristobal Lecture organized by Adrian’s family with the support of UMPIL or Writers Union of the Philippines.

UMPIL chair Dr. Michael Coroza and officers Karina Bolasco (AdMU Press director) and Celina Cristobal spoke briefly on the decade-old lecture series before Adrian Cristobal Jr. or “Che” introduced the speaker.

The first visual shown onscreen, with its accompanying text read by Justice Carpio, had the following initial foregrounding:

“US$5.3 trillion in ship-borne goods traverse the South China Sea annually, accounting for almost one-half of the world’s shipborne trade in tonnage. Four leading exporting countries use the South China Sea for their maritime trade — China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Sixty-five percent of South Korea’s petroleum imports, 60 percent of Japan and Taiwan’s petroleum imports, and 50 percent of China’s petroleum imports pass through the South China Sea. Twelve percent of the annual global fish catch comes from the South China Sea, worth US$21.8 billion. Two billion people live in 10 countries bordering the South China Sea, and hundreds of millions of people depend on fish from the South China Sea for their protein. The maritime areas close to the coast of countries bordering the South China Sea are rich in oil and gas. The South China Sea is also rich in methane hydrates — which China considers its future source of energy.”

What followed was a masterful marshaling of logical arguments and evidence that give the lie to China’s spurious contemporary claim of having exercised historic rights to the SCS, as buttressed by its much-disputed nine-dash line of virtual occupation.

Justice Carpio compressed the arguments brought up by the Philippines before The South China Sea Arbitration Tribunal established pursuant to the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) — which led to the adjudication decision awarded in favor of the Philippines in July of 2016. But he added recent materials, some of which he personally uncovered, from libraries and select archives in China and the West. 

China’s position paper of Dec. 7, 2014, submitted to the arbitral tribunal, states: “Chinese activities in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China was the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea Islands and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them.”

This is rendered false with proper historical accounting of China’s “creeping expansion in the SCS from 1946 to 2017.” It quickly becomes obvious that China has utilized even myths to establish its recent claims, such as the false narrative that “Over 600 years ago, Chinese navigator Zheng He made multiple visits to the Manila Bay, Visayas and Sulu on his seven overseas voyages seeking friendship and cooperation.” No such visits happened.

Justice Carpio emphasized: “The Philippines submitted to the Tribunal over 170 ancient maps, including (1) Chinese maps from the Song to the Qing dynasties; (2) Philippine and Southeast Asian maps, and (3) European maps of Asia.” Together with official documents of China after the Qing dynasty, the highest number of ancient maps ever submitted to an international tribunal show that China never owned or controlled the SCS at any time in its history.

The Philippine position was “that Chinese historic maps dating back to 1136, including those purporting to depict the entirety of the Empire of China, consistently show China’s territory extending no further south than Hainan.”

It was only in the 1946 edition of the China Handbook, compiled by the Chinese Ministry of Information, that China started to claim the Spratlys. And only in 1947 was the nine-dashed line map circulated. Clearly, China’s claims evolved imaginarily from what had been authentic.

In brief, the arbitral tribunal ruled that “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.” 

Throughout his presentation, Justice Carpio stressed that he has no beef with the Chinese people, though he leaves unsaid that it is simply unfortunate that autocratic leadership has been drumming the false entitlement into their citizens’ heads.

 He also dwelled on recent developments since the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines, such as China’s militarization of Mischief Reef, the continued exercise of freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the SCS by the world’s naval powers, and Duterte’s unfortunate actuations that ignore rationality.

His lecture ended on this note:   

“What Should the Filipino People Do Now?”:

“1. Encourage all navies of the world to exercise freedom of navigation in the high seas and exclusive economic zones of the South China Sea. This will affirm and enforce the ruling of the Tribunal that there are high seas and exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea. The waters in the high seas belong to all mankind, and the resources in the exclusive economic zones belong solely to the adjacent coastal states.

“2. Ask the people of the world to help the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei explain to the Chinese people that China has no historic claim to the South China Sea.

“3. Continue resorting to the Rule of Law as embodied in UNCLOS. War is not an option, and has never been an option.”

The evolving presentation is available online, since the publication of an eBook in May 2017 titled The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea, collating over 140 lectures and speeches while explaining the issues in layman’s language. There’s even a comic-book version.

The good news confirmed by Justice Carpio himself during dinner that followed the Ateneo lecture was that an actual book would soon become a reality, as earlier confided by Karina Bolasco of AdMU Press. She had also expressed her disappointment that despite the existence of Justice Carpio’s e-Book collation that clearly explains the issue, there has hardly been any public pushback against China’s self-serving claims. She suggested a radio program that can educate more Filipinos on the matter of our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

Indeed, alas, the radio airwaves are dominated by pro-administration broadcasters, even with the “disconnect” between poll findings on Filipino sentiment against Chinese intrusions as against the supposed trust factor enjoyed by a president who has practically ceded the country he rules as a province of China.  

Will the pushback eventually develop, given what has of late been called our country’s “Chinafication?” It could easily start with broadened dissemination of Justice Antonio Carpio’s patriotic advocacy.

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