The Philippines stand to lose 80 percent of its territory facing the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) if China will continue to expand its sprawling claim in the contested waters, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned.
Carpio, in his lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on October 5, said China’s national boundaries under its so-called nine-dash line affects not only the Philippines but other countries as well.
“The Philippines loses about 80 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) facing the West Philippine Sea, including the entire Reed Bank and part of the Malampaya gas field,” he said.
Malaysia, he added, loses about 80 percent of its EEZ in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as most of its active oil fields in the same area, while Vietnam loses about 50 percent of its total EEZ.
Brunei loses about 90 percent of its total EEZ, while Indonesia loses about 30 percent of its EEZ facing the South China Sea in Natuna Islands, whose surrounding waters comprise the largest gas field in Southeast Asia, Carpio said.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over 90 percent of the waters, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.
Defying protests from other countries like the United States and Japan, China has taken a more aggressive stance in the tense waters, beefing up its reclamation activities over the past months in disputed areas and transformed previously submerged features into artificial islands with buildings several stories high with at least one runway.
Manila said it has been taking steps to mend its relations with China, but emphasized that it will not withdraw its arbitration case against Beijing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.
In a bid to reinforce its territorial claims amid Manila’s legal challenge and confrontations in the resource-rich waters, China, in January 2013, published a new 10-dash line map that placed nearly the entire West Philippine Sea within its “national boundaries.” It was protested by Manila.
The map features 10-dash lines instead of the popularly known “nine” dashes to mark a huge area of the waters in a tongue-shaped encirclement as Chinese territory. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have been contesting China’s massive claim.
“Will the world community allow a single state to rewrite the Law of the Sea, so this single state can exercise indisputable sovereignty to almost an entire sea, subject the high seas to its sovereign jurisdiction, and seize large areas of other coastal states’ EEZs, which are their legal maritime entitlements under both customary international law?” Carpio asked.
Carpio noted that activities by China to enforce its claim violate the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Such activities threaten peace, security, and stability in the region. China is a signatory to both agreements.
“If UNCLOS does not apply to the South China Sea dispute, as when China’s nine-dashed lines are allowed to gobble up the EEZs of coastal states as well as the high seas, then UNCLOS, the constitution for the oceans and seas, cannot also apply to any maritime dispute in the rest of the oceans and seas of our planet,” he said.
“It will be the beginning of the end for UNCLOS. The rule of the naval cannon will prevail in the oceans and seas of our planet, no longer the rule of law. There will be a naval arms race among coastal countries,” Carpio added.