FORMER Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio yesterday said China’s promised economic aid, worth about $24 billion, is a mere “pittance” compared to the resources it claims in the South China Sea, including areas being claimed by the Philippines.
“The loans and investments that China promised, about $24 billion, only less than five percent has materialized. And even if that would materialize, that’s a pittance compared to the value of the fish, gas, oil and other mineral resources in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
He said even benefits derived by the Philippines from Chinese tourists have basically dried up as they have stopped coming due to travel restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“So, what can we get out if this? Nothing.We have set aside the arbitral ruling for nothing actually, and that is the way China is trying to win, by promising something but not delivering,” he added.
Carpio was referring to the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration which invalidated China’s sweeping claim in the South China Sea, to include the West Philippine Sea, under its so-called nine dash line theory.
Beijing has repeatedly said it does not recognize the ruling and instead proceeded to reclaim and construct seven artificial islands in the area, three of which are inside Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Duterte has set aside the ruling in a bid to court Chinese loans and investments for his “Build Build Build” infrastructure projects but last week, during the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, he affirmed the country’s arbitral victory over China and said it is now a part of international law.
Carpio, who was among those instrumental in the country’s victory in the arbitration tribunal, said the government should educate the public on the need to press the Philippine claim.
He added that China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea is the biggest external threat to national security and sovereignty in the next 25 to 50 years.
“We are going to lose a maritime space larger than our total land area… We have to stand pat of this because we have already won the arbitral ruling,” he added.
In the same interview, Carpio said the Philippines can rally the support of the “overwhelming majority” of countries if it brings the 2016 ruling against China before the UN.
He said small and weak countries have won cases against influential countries, like Nicaragua which sued the United States before the International Criminal of Justice,
The ICJ in 1986 ordered the US to immediately halt any attempt to block Nicaraguan ports.
Carpio also cited the 2019 ruling of the ICJ which rejected the claim of sovereignty by the United Kingdom on Chagos island located in the Indian Ocean and ordered its return to Mauritius.
“This will happen to China if we play it right. The other countries are just waiting for us to move,” Carpio said, adding that Manila has the backing of the US, UK and Australia in its arbitral win.
Early this month, the UK, France and Germany sent a note verbale to the UN expressing its support to the 2016 arbitral ruling. In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected nearly all of Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.
“Once we get the support of these other countries, the big powers, I think we will get an overwhelming majority in the UN General Assembly,” Carpio said.
Carpio said to further fortify the Philippines’ claim and the arbitral ruling, Manila should file a claim for “extended continental shelf” with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which he said does not need the consent of other countries.
He said other countries in the region such as Indonesia and Malaysia have filed their claims for extended continental shelf.
Malaysia is among claimants to parts of the South China Sea, together with the Brunei, Taiwan, and Vietnam.. China claims almost the entire area.