The Philippine government should ask the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration to stop China’s sea reclamation and construction work in disputed islands, according to Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
“The Philippines can ask the tribunal to issue a provisional measure directing China to stop its reclamation to prevent serious harm to the marine environment. Even if China ignores it, the world will know China is defying an international order,” he said on Monday.
During the forum “Toward Common Actions on Maritime Commons–Safeguarding Maritime Security in Asia Through Regional Cooperation,” Carpio noted that China’s activities at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) have destroyed the reefs.
“Seventy percent of fish in the Philippines are spawned here…Carried by the tides to Palawan and even Vietnam. So, this is our food source and China doesn’t care,” he said.
The Philippines filed a memorial or complaint against China before the international arbitral tribunal in March 2014. The court, which is backed by the United Nations, ordered China to file its comment but Beijing refused to participate in the arbitration of the case.
Carpio is scheduled to fly to The Hague in The Netherlands in July to observe the arbitration hearing when the court tackles the complaint filed by the Philippines against China.
The oral argument deals with the issue raised by China that the Permanent Arbitration Court has no jurisdiction to act on the Philippines’ complaint under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Aside from Carpio, also expected to fly to The Netherlands is Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza. Solicitor General Florin Hilbay requested Jardeleza, a former Solicitor General, to be present during the proceedings.
Carpio said the Permanent Court of Arbitration should issue a directive halting China from continuing with maritime construction.
China has built around 2,000 acres of reclaimed land on Subi Reef, Gaven Reef, Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Chigua Reef and Calderon Reef.
Palace hits Chinese envoy
Malacañang also on Monday criticized China’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations who recently assailed Manila’s claims in the West Philippine Sea.
“The Chinese envoy is entitled to his erroneous opinion,” its spokesman Edwin Lacierda said as he referred to Wang Min, who described Manila’s territorial claims as “erroneous” and “totally wrong.”
The Chinese diplomat was quoted as saying that the Philippines, which he merely referred to as “that country,” should correct its “erroneous” claims to disputed territories. He also renewed calls for Manila to resume bilateral talks with Beijing to settle the dispute.
Wang maintained that Chinese reclamation activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea are “legal, justified and reasonable.”
Meanwhile, Lacierda said the Philippines will continue to highlight the “environmental degradation” reportedly being caused by Chinese reclamation activities.
“Recognizing that the issue of environment is an issue which all countries can find common ground with and is not strictly a matter merely between two countries, the community of nations must be made aware of the negative consequences of a unilateral action by one country,” he said.
Lacierda, however, did give particular environmental interventions that the Philippines will undertake to address the environmental impact of Beijing’s island-building efforts.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez earlier said the Chinese reclamation work may have damaged 311 hectares of coral reefs.
Vietnamese fishers attacked
A Vietnamese fishing crew said they were attacked by a Chinese vessel using water cannon in disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, Vietnam’s state media reported also on Monday.
The wooden Vietnamese fishing boat from central Quang Ngai province was near the Paracels — known as Hoang Sa in Vietnamese — on June 7 when it was attacked by a red-and-white painted Chinese vessel, the Lao Dong newspaper said.
“The crew signaled to the [Chinese] boat not to use water cannon as they feared their boat would sink, but they fired the water directly at them,” the report added.
One of the 13 crew was knocked over and broke his leg during the altercation, it said, quoting the crew.
A number of Vietnamese state-run newspapers ran photos of the sailor with his leg in plaster.
In a separate incident, on June 10, another Vietnamese fishing boat in the same area was surrounded by four Chinese boats and had their equipment and catch stolen, the Lao Dong newspaper said.
The communist neighbors are locked in a longstanding maritime dispute over islands and fishing rights in the South China Sea.
Both Vietnam and China claim full sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, which Beijing has controlled since 1974 after seizing them from the then-South Vietnam regime in a brief battle.
China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea conflicts with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND AFP