SUPREME Court Senior Associate Antonio Carpio yesterday said President Duterte should avoid making statements that tend to waive the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea in the face of reports that China is planning to build a radar monitoring station in the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal off the coast of Zambales.
Carpio issued the statement a day after Duterte said before flying to Myanmar that he would not stop China from building the monitoring station since the country is no match to Beijing militarily.
Duterte also brushed aside concerns over Chinese survey ships that had been seen near Benham Rise—waters east of the main island of Luzon that have been recognized by the United Nations as indisputably Philippine territory in 2012.
“The President should avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said, insisting that under Republic Act 9552 or the Philippines Baseline Law, Scarborough Shoal is part of the country’s national territory.
Carpio, a member of the country’s legal team that won the arbitral tribunal case against China’s sweeping nine-dash line claim in the disputed waters, said even if Manila is militarily inferior to Beijing, Duterte, as the commander in chief, has other options that he can use if China proceeds with its plan to build a monitoring station in the shoal.
“He can file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity. This is the least that the President can do. This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels. He can also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the Scarborough Shoal. If the Chinese attacked the Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Phil-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” Carpio said.
Carpio said Duterte can also ask the US to declare the shoal as part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Mutual Defense Treaty since the shoal is part of the country’s territory even during the colonial period.
“Accept the standing US offer for joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, which includes the Scarborough Shoal. This will demonstrate joint Philippine-US determination to prevent China from building on the Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio said.