Retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio lashed back at President Rodrigo Duterte Thursday, saying he did nothing when China seized Sandy Cay from the Philippines in 2017.
Carpio was responding to the President’s attack on Carpio and former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, who he said did nothing to stop the Chinese from building on Philippine-claimed territories during the Aquino administration.
Sandy Cay is just two nautical miles from Pagasa, the largest island in the Spratlys.
“China’s seizure of Sandy Cay has resulted in the loss of one-third of our territorial sea in Pagasa, a loss of a maritime area three times larger than the land area of Quezon City. Still President Duterte has declared ‘I simply love President Xi Jinping,’” Carpio said in a statement.
Carpio, who has been pressing the government to strongly assert the country’s sovereignty over disputed maritime territories in the West Philippine Sea, also clarified that in late 2012 when China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, he was in the Supreme Court.
Despite not being part of the Executive branch, Carpio said he recommended that the Philippines respond to the seizure by bringing China to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) tribunal “to assail the validity of China’s nine-dash line, which is China’s basis in claiming the West Philippine Sea.”
“The Aquino administration agreed and filed the South China Sea arbitration case in January 2013. The Philippines won a landmark victory when the arbitral tribunal issued its award on July 12, 2016 invalidating China’s nine-dash line as without legal or factual basis. The tribunal ruled that China has no overlapping interest or claim to the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said.
Unfortunately, Carpio added, President Duterte, who had assumed office by then, announced that he was “setting aside” the arbitral award in favor of seeking loans and investments from China amounting to $22 billion.
“Today, less than 5 percent of those loans and investments have materialized even as President Duterte is already leaving office next year. And yet President Duterte even allowed China to fish in our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea despite admitting that there is not enough fish stock there for both Filipino and Chinese fishermen,” Carpio said.
“We even import galunggong now from China, the same galunggong (mackerel scad) that Chinese fishermen take in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“Filipinos deserve, and should demand, a President who loves Filipinos first and foremost and who will uncompromisingly defend Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea,” said Carpio, who is also the lead convenor of 1Sambayan, a coalition of democratic forces opposed to the Duterte administration.
Del Rosario, meanwhile, said both sides had agreed to withdraw their ships from the Scarborough shoal in 2012, but China had “deceitfully breached” their agreement to do so.
“To seek a peaceful and durable solution, we did our best to bring China before an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2013 leading to an overwhelming victory for the Philippines,” he said.
But instead of embracing the 2016 victory, “Duterte did not waste time in advancing his declared embrace of [Chinese President] Xi Jinping when he very quickly shelved the Arbitral Award in exchange for a promised $24B in Chinese investments and assistance which, until now, has not materialized.”
“President Duterte also announced in 2019 that he made a verbal agreement with Xi Jinping allowing the Chinese to fish in the West Philippine Sea in patent violation of our Constitution,” Del Rosario added.
President Duterte on Wednesday told Philippine ships in the West Philippine Sea not to leave the waterway despite the risk of damaging the country’s ties with China.
“This will really be a test: I read China said we (Philippine ships) should leave. I now say (to PH vessels): Do not leave. Period. Regardless of whether America will help us or not. Let us stop pinning our hopes on America. They will not help us. A nuclear war – you think America will intervene?” Duterte said in his televised weekly address.
The President said he did not want to contend with China over the WPS, but reiterated the Philippines maintains its claim of sovereignty over the islands and the waters within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“Nobody in the United Nations will go to war for us. For China, the issue is finished – there is a decision, and they do not want to follow the decision. As for us, we have the (favorable) decision but we are at a loss as to how to get back physically the West Philippine Sea. That is the problem,” the President said.
“Remember when I assumed office, the South China Sea was already with China because we retreated. We did not take action. And who was the President then? Now, if you dare me to take action, let’s see. Let’s see. We have ships there. I will tell China, ‘We do not want trouble. We do not want war. But do not tell us to leave.’”
“What will happen if this escalates and becomes a war? For sure, I will send Carpio and Del Rosario. They started this, they should go there first,” Duterte said.
But Duterte blasted Del Rosario and Carpio for moves that he said forced the country to cede territory in the disputed waterway before his administration took over.
He asked them why the previous administration did not call in its American allies during the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012, when the Philippine Navy tried to arrest eight Chinese fishing vessels but were blocked by two marine surveillance ships from China.
“You told the Navy to pull back… did you lose courage?” he said in Filipino.