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Opinion

Duterte ‘inutile’ on WPS? Carpio proposes 5 actions

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

President Rody Duterte said in July 2020 he was “inutile” against China’s territory and resource grabbing in the West Philippine Sea. “I cannot do anything,” he conceded in his fifth annual State of the Nation Address. “Just cool off ... [pursue] diplomatic endeavors.”

Yesterday retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio suggested five actions for the country. Poor fishers groan of dwindled catch as China coastguards occupying Philippine reefs menace them.

Following is Carpio’s proposal, “What Can Be Done after Five Years of Inaction by Duterte,” at 1Sambayan’s forum (edited for space):

“Five years ago in Dec. 2016 President Duterte announced he was setting aside the Arbitral Award. Here are five actions the Philippines can take.

“(1) Immediately withdraw the authorization by President Duterte for Chinese to fish in Philippine exclusive economic zone. The Constitution reserves the nation’s marine wealth in our EEZ for exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens. Only Filipinos can fish in Philippine EEZs.

“President Duterte has no authority to allow Chinese to fish in the WPS. China has the largest fishing fleet in the world. Chinese fishermen are scooping the fish in the WPS, leaving very little to Filipinos. We now have to import galunggong (round scad) from China, our own galunggong which Chinese fishermen get from the WPS. It is now twice as expensive as chicken. Filipino fishermen and consumers are suffering because of an unconstitutional policy of President Duterte favoring Chinese.

“(2) Immediately retract the statement of President Duterte that China is in possession of the WPS. Factually and legally it is not in possession. Even China does not claim so. With his statement President Duterte is discouraging service contractors from performing obligations to the Philippine government. How can they perform their obligations if China, not the Philippines, is in possession of the WPS?

“This has serious ramifications. Our Malampaya gas field will run out in two to three years. The replacement should be Reed Bank, which has reserves more than twice the gas in Malampaya. But our service contractors cannot go to Reed Bank because President Duterte said that China is in possession of the WPS, which includes the Reed Bank.

“Malampaya supplies 40 percent of Luzon’s energy requirement. Unless we find a replacement, Luzon will have 12-14 hours of blackouts everyday. Factories, schools, malls and offices will close. Hundreds of thousands of workers will lose their jobs. Worse than COVID-19, because without electricity you cannot even work from home. The remedy is to import liquified natural gas to feed gas-fired plants in Batangas. This will make our electricity, already one of the most expensive in ASEAN, even more expensive. Businesses and consumers will suffer. Investors will not put up plants in the Philippines because of high power cost. President Duterte’s policy of appeasing China will cause untold suffering.

“(3) Join freedom-of-navigation exercises of US and allies in the WPS. These exercises, every 45 days on average, represent the strongest enforcement of the Arbitral Award. They demonstrate to China and to the world that the WPS is the EEZ of a coastal state, in effect affirming the Arbitral Award. The only adjacent coastal state in the WPS is the Philippines. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows freedom of navigation by foreign warships, including naval drills, in all EEZs of the world. More and more countries are conducting exercises in the South China Sea, including WPS: UK, France, Japan, Australia, Canada, India, Germany and the Netherlands.

“(4) Conduct joint patrols with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei in each other’s EEZs. Joint patrols will enforce the Arbitral Award by state practice. They will demonstrate to China and the world that in the SCS the ASEAN coastal states have their own EEZs unimpaired by China’s nine-dash line. Joint patrols are peaceful, lawful exercises of sovereign rights. These are allowed under UNCLOS to protect a coastal state’s exclusive right to the living and non-living resources within its EEZ.

“(5) File with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf a 150-nautical mile extended continental shelf off the coast of Luzon facing the WPS. The 150-mile ECS starts where our 200-mile EEZ in the WPS ends. The Philippines can file this ECS unilaterally, like the ECS filed in Benham or Philippine Rise in the Philippine Sea facing the Pacific Ocean. Filing such ECS asserts the existence of a Philippine EEZ in the WPS.”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Book orders accepted at Shopee: https://shopee.ph/GOTCHA-(Paperback)-by-Jarius-Bondoc-i.264837039.3870254862

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