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Carpio: Freedom of navigation is PH arbitral win

Updated: May 24, 2021

[ NEWS FEATURE: VIEWPOINT’s replay episode on WPS]

Amidst the support of powerful countries to the Philippines’ arbitral win, President Duterte said that the arbitral ruling is just a “scrap of paper” at his presidential briefing on May 10.

However, Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Carpio stressed that freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea by the naval powers of the world signifies an enforcement of the arbitral ruling.

In his May 10 social media post, Senator Panfilo Lacson echoed the statements of experts that the government should build stronger alliances with other powerful countries to help the country in its interest in the West Philippine Sea.

In a Viewpoint episode aired on March 27, Carpio said that the stronger international support for the Philippines is the result of the milestone victory in the arbitral tribunal.

“It is because of the ruling that western naval powers support us and that’s the law. Now, we have to use the ruling to get their support for Julian Felipe Reef. A ruling would strengthen their support for us because this is how we build up support, by getting the law on our side.” Carpio said.

Naval drills conducted by the United States of America and its allies—United Kingdom, France and Japan in WPS; is an assertion that WPS is not part of China's waters but rather part of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines in accordance with the Hague Tribunal ruling, Carpio added.

Enforcement and people's misconception

Carpio, one of the legal dignitaries who secured PH victory in the international arbitration, lamented that people have the misconception that the ruling is not being enforced.

But he clarified that every 45 days there is an enforcement of the ruling in which freedom of navigation operations and naval drills take place. The naval ships of the naval powers of the world sail in WPS telling China that they could conduct naval drills there because that is the EEZ of a coastal state, and the only coastal state in WPS is the Philippines.

“This is the robust, strongest, enforcement of the ruling. They are in fact enforcing the ruling for us. That's why we should encourage them to do that and we should in fact be joining them.” Carpio said.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered earlier that the military should refrain from participating in naval exercises with its foreign allies in the South China Sea except in Philippine waters—12 miles from the shore.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay expressed that the military presence in WPS will continue.

Despite China’s invalid nine-dash-line, they had already built military structures in Spratlys Islands particularly in Mischief Reef and parking hundreds of vessels in a near Julian Felipe Reef which experts believe that those are Chinese Military Militia.

Mischief reef and Julian Felipe Reef are within the 200-nautical miles EEZ of the Philippines.

Lawfare and Julian Felipe Reef

Recently, around 200 Chinese vessels were found in Julian Felipe Reef, 175 nautical miles from the shore of Palawan, but the Chinese embassy said that those are only fishing vessels which took shelter from bad weather.

Yet Carpio did not believe that because they have been there since November 2020.

He also recalled how China took Mischief reef in 1995, the same strategy that they are doing now in Julian Felipe reef, regardless of the code of conduct between ASEAN countries and China last 2002.

Nonetheless, Carpio is confident that the government will win by filing another arbitration case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea against China for parking their vessels.

Another ruling those naval powers could invoke in telling China to abide by international law, Carpio explained.

“This is lawfare and this is our strength and we should use this because this is where we are strong.” he said.

Carpio also suggests that after filing a diplomatic protest, the next best thing to bring the dispute is into a forum where warships do not count, missiles do not count, and only the legal arguments that count.

Compelling international support

“There is a document that the world can rally around. That document is the arbitral ruling.” Carpio stated.

While the country can invoke a mutual defense treaty with the US, there is overwhelming support that came from many powerful countries.

According to Capio, Germany, UK and France issued a statement a few months ago saying that they support the arbitral ruling and China must comply with it.

“In fact, Germany is thinking of sending their warship to the South China Sea, the Netherlands is also thinking.” he added.

In a statement released by European Union, it said that they are concerned over the tension in the disputed waters and expressed its opposition to any action that will endanger the peace and stability in the region.

“We should show our appreciation by joining them. If we join them, the more naval powers of the world will join.” He said.

Watch the full episode here:

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