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Antonio Carpio rebuffs Duterte: China cannot own South China Sea

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 11/16/2018 Edu Punay

MANILA, Philippines — Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio yesterday contested President Duterte’s pronouncement that China is already in possession of the South China Sea.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Antonio Carpio rebuffs Duterte: China cannot own South China Sea © Provided by Philstar Global Corporation Antonio Carpio rebuffs Duterte: China cannot own South China Sea

In a speech before a gathering of doctors at the Philippine International Convention Center, Carpio said China does not and cannot possess the South China Sea, contrary to Duterte’s remarks to reporters on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore.

“China is in physical possession of the entire Paracels, seven geologic features in the Spratlys, and Scarborough Shoal. These geologic features, and their territorial seas, constitute less than eight percent of the total area of the South China Sea. Factually, China is not in possession of the South China Sea,” the country’s top magistrate stressed.

He maintained that about 25 percent of the South China Sea covers high seas, which no state can possess under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea because they “belong to all mankind.”

“Under UNCLOS, there is freedom of navigation and overflight in the high seas for all nations,” he explained.

Carpio reiterated his position that the Philippines has sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, which is part of South China Sea.

“If China can possess the South China Sea, then the Philippines cannot exercise its exclusive sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. Under UNCLOS, there is also freedom of navigation and overflight in the EEZs for all nations,” he pointed out.

“Like all other coastal states in the world, the Philippines under UNCLOS has exclusive sovereign rights to explore and exploit the natural resources in its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, which is part of the South China Sea,” Carpio added.

At the ASEAN summit earlier this week, Duterte was quoted as saying that “China is already in possession (of South China Sea). It’s now in their hands.”

The President said this as he called on the United States and other countries to just accept this “reality” and avoid creating “friction” that could lead to full-scale military confrontation.

Carpio recently said that he would not change his stance on the territorial dispute against China even at the expense of his bid for the top judicial post.

He said he would keep his position on the issue despite its being contrary to that of the administration of Duterte, which opted not to protest China’s seizure of areas within Philippines’ EEZ.

He stressed his “advocacy” in the West Philippine Sea is “more important” than being appointed chief justice.

“The President has the prerogative to appoint whoever he wants and I will respect that. But that will not stop me from continuing my advocacy (in the West Philippine Sea) because for me this is more important than anything else,” he said in an interview.

Carpio is one of the five nominees for the top SC post vacated by the retirement last month of chief justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and is expected to be considered for the position in view of the President’s pronouncement that he respects seniority in appointing the chief justice.

The other four nominees are Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr. – With  Jess Diaz

Also watch: Duterte opposes military drills in South China Sea

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