Retired Supreme Court (SC) senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines could assert its sovereign rights in the country’s territorial dispute with China without engaging in war, citing other countries in Asia that stood up against China using diplomacy.
“Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia are asserting their sovereign rights to their maritime zones against China’s claims,” Carpio said.
“These countries do not go to war against China, and neither does China go to war against these countries,” he added.
The former associate justice’s statement was a response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday that the Philippines could not afford to go on war against China.
“We have to go to war. And I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can, but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan. Talagang inutil ako diyan. Walang magawa [I’m useless when it comes to that. Really, I’m useless to that. I can’t do anything]. I cannot,” the President said.
“China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it. So, it’s as simple as that. They are in possession of the property…so what can we do?” he added.
However, Carpio said war is “not even [an] option” as “there are lawful and peaceful means of asserting sovereign rights.”
“War is not even option because the UN Charter outlaws resort to war to settle territorial or maritime disputes. Moreover, the Philippine Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy, which means the Philippines cannot go to war to enforce the arbitral ruling,” he said.
On 12 July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines. It clarified that it would not “…rule on any question of sovereignty over land territory and would not delimit any maritime boundary between the Parties”. The tribunal also ruled that China has “no historical rights” based on the “nine-dash line” map. China and Taiwan have rejected the ruling.
Carpio also refuted Duterte’s claim that China has “possession” of the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
“Naval powers like the US, UK, France, Australia, Japan, and Canada regularly sail in our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, proving that China is not in possession of our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
“The President should not say that China is in possession of our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea because factually China is not in possession.”