President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said that he would “wait for better times” to raise the issue of oil extraction and the arbitration ruling in disputed waters “when heads are cooler,” even as Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio insisted that the country should sue China before a United Nations tribunal for threatening war against the country and demand that Beijing comply with an international court ruling that invalidated its claims over the South China Sea.
“It cannot be dismissed because it will be there for all time and it will always bug China,” Duterte said Friday in his new television show, Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa aired over state broadcaster PTV4.
“[We’ll] wait for better times when heads are cooler and when we are, we have the equanimity... both in [our] mind and body to discuss it,” he added.
Malacañang earlier denied that President Rodrigo Duterte gave the “green light” to China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio had also said that the Philippines should file damages against Beijing for our failure to utilize resources in the disputed waters, a move being blocked by China.
Carpio said China’s recent warning was a “gross violation” of the United Nations Charter, Unclos, and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia to which China and the Philippines are parties.
It was President Duterte himself who revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened to start a war should the Philippines undertake an oil exploration in the Reed Bank, an underwater mountain near the Philippine coast rich in untapped oil and gas deposits.
“As a nation that under its Constitution has renounced war as an instrument of national policy, the Philippines’ recourse is to bring China’s threat of war to another Unclos arbitral tribunal, to secure an order directing China to comply with the ruling of the Unclos arbitral tribunal that declared the Reed Bank part of Philippine EEZ [exclusive economic zone],” Carpio said.
Carpio added that the Philippines can also ask for damages for every day of delay that the Philippines is prevented by China from exploiting Philippine EEZ.
There is a pressing need for oil exploration because the Malampaya gas field, a key source of energy for the nation’s main island of Luzon, is due to run out in 10 years, according to Carpio.
Manila may experience rotating brownouts if the country will not develop a replacement area, a substitute area such as the Reed Bank.
“Unless the Philippines develops Reed Bank, Luzon will suffer 10 to 12 hours of brownouts daily 10 years from now. This will devastate the Philippine economy,” Carpio said.
Carpio also suggested that the Philippines can also bring China’s threat to go to war against the country before the United Nations General Assembly by sponsoring a resolution condemning China’s threat of war against the Philippines and demanding that China comply with the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
He noted that China has no veto in the General Assembly.
“Since the Philippines has renounced war as an instrument of national policy, the President has the constitutional duty to use all legal means under international law to protect Philippine EEZ,” said Carpio, one of the country’s leading maritime legal experts and a member of the Philippine legal team to the PCA in The Hague, Netherlands.
The arbitral tribunal, which was created under the Unclos where China is a signatory, has already ruled with finality that the Reed Bank is within the Philippines’ EEZ and only the Philippines can exploit the natural resources within Philippine EEZ.
“China’s threat of war against the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea reveals the aggressive design of China against the Philippines,” Carpio said.
He added that in the face of China’s open threat of war, Duterte cannot simply do nothing.
“In the face of China’s open threat of war to seize Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, an area larger than the total land area of the Philippines, the President cannot simply do nothing, or worse acquiesce to China’s action, for inaction is the opposite of protecting Philippine EEZ,” he said.
“Under international law, acquiescence is the inaction of a state in the face of threat to its rights under circumstances calling for objection to the threat to its rights. Acquiescence means the Philippines will lose forever its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea to China,” Carpio warned.
Former DFA secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, said that China clearly does not intend to respect the rule of law and the Tribunal’s ruling in the West Philippine Sea.
“The utterance by the leadership of China on a threat to go to war if the Philippines drills for oil within its EEZ in the SCS clearly demonstrates to the world China’s position regarding the arbitral tribunal outcome that is consistent with Unclos,” the senior diplomat said.
Contrary to the Philippines’ position that “right is might,” he said, China has strongly declared that it is “might that will trump what is right.”
But Abella said that despite China’s threat of war against the Philippines, both countries still agreed to pursue “a more peaceful resolution” for us to utilize our resources.
“President Duterte was forthright about its economic rights awarded by the Arbitral Court in The Hague, a claim the Chinese leader said they would vigorously contest given their historic claims to the area,” Abella said.
“Given this complexity, both parties agreed to pursue a more peaceful resolution to the matter that satisfies both our sovereign and economic rights,” he added.
“With all due respect to the Senior Associate Justice [Carpio], Chinese island-building and military deployment activities on certain features in the West Philippine Sea have been ongoing for some years now,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
He also clarified that disputes in the South China Sea are “not the sum total” of the country’s relations with China, as both countries are “cognizant of the warmer relationships” in the region.
He pointed out Duterte’s “two-track approach” in terms of maintaining relations with China.
“[O]ne, to grow our healthy economic, trade and investment relationships, and to ensure that our arbitral rights in the WPS are not compromised, more so now through the newly established bilateral consultation mechanism to manage disputes in the area,” Abella said.
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