Philippines should support freedom of navigation in South China Sea to protect own rights

In March, the French Navy announced that Floréal-class surveillance frigate Vendémiaire conducted a patrol in the South China Sea to assert French presence in the region.

French Navy, File
Audrey Morallo ( – July 12, 2018 – 6:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should encourage freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the South China Sea as these could strengthen the enforcement of the historic arbitral ruling, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said on Thursday.

Carpio explained that the operations enforced the core legal effect of the 2016 ruling of the United Nations-backed tribunal.

“In effect, these operations enforce the core legal ramifications arising from the Award- that there are high seas in the South China Sea, and aroud these high seas are the exclusive economic zones belonging to the adjacent coastal states, including the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said in a forum organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute in Makati City.

READ: US to continue operations in South China Sea despite China’s dissent — Pentagon chief

The acting chief justice said that China would not be able to transform the South China Sea into its mare nostrum with these operations.

Carpio said that immediately after the release of the ruling naval powers such as the US, the UK, Australia, France, Canada, India and Japan conducted their naval and aerial operations in the region.

The tribunal in the Hague invalidated in 2016 China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea, which was based on its so-called nine-dash line.

The ruling was released several weeks into Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, and after initial uncertainty he eventually chose to back burn it to court Chinese money and investments into the country.

He has since tried to forge warmer ties with China, a stark contrast to the frosty relations between Manila and Beijing under former President Benigno Aquino III, whose government filed the case.

“Thus, effectively the president has placed in deep freeze any enforcement of the (arbitral) award by the Philippines,” Carpio said.

According to Carpio, it is the responsibility of Duterte as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure that the military was conducting regular naval and aerial patrols in the country’s exclusive economic zones.

He said that the 1987 Constitution mandated the military to be the protector of the State and was mandated to secure its sovereignty and the integrity of its territory.

He also urged the Philippines to campaign among Southeast Asian nations and the US to make the building on the Scarborough Shoal their red line in the dispute.

He said that the US should treat this as a trigger for it to invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which requires the countries to come to the aid of each other if it is attacked.

“I have always said that defending Philippine maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea is an intergenerational struggle,” Carpio said.

READ: France, UK sail warships in South China Sea


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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