CHINA cannot do anything on the freedom of navigation and overflight in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) if an international arbitral tribunal scraps its excessive nine-dash line claim to the territory.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday said the naval powers have already pledged to enforce the decision of the tribunal if it will not allow China to claim almost the entire strategic waters.
The United States and France, he noted, are just among the nations who will conduct freedom of navigation operations to assert their right to sail in the West Philippine Sea.
France will also convince other European nations to do the same, Carpio said.
Each year, an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through the vital maritime route.
“So the naval powers, because they have interest in freedom of navigation and overflight, they will enforce that part of decision. They will sail,” Carpio said in a forum.
“These are high seas. Anybody can sail here. These are exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. They will sail because international law allows them to sail in the exclusive economic zones without permission from anyone,” he pointed out.
But on the dispute on who can exploit the resources in the region, Carpio clarified that this is only a battle between the Philippines and China and not even Washington can help Manila.
The West Philippine Sea is believed to potentially have huge deposits of oil and gas.
It is also a rich fishing source.
Carpio said the Philippines may run to the UN General Assembly to sponsor a resolution, urging China “not to be a rogue nation and must not be an outcast in the community of civil nations.”
“We assume our battle for ourselves. Nobody can fight that battle for us,” he added.
While the Philippines has no military capability to go to war against the Asian giant, Carpio said the country can sue China if it will continue to claim the resources.
“There are many things that we can do with the ruling. We can be creative about this. We are not totally helpless here,” he added.
The Philippines, according to Carpio, should cultivate and strengthen alliances with the US, Japan and Australia which have the capability to sail across the West Philippine Sea to enforce the ruling.
Manila filed a memorial against Beijing before the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague in 2013 to affirm its right to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, under the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
It has been widely expected that the ruling of the tribunal will favor the Philippines.
“I am confident that the UN arbitral tribunal will scarp the nine-dash line,” Carpio said.