ONLY the United States can stop China’s grip in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-American stance.
At the close of joint exercises between the Philippine and US marines on Wednesday, Carpio said the Philippines should continue joint patrols with the US to protect its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
“There is only one power on earth that can stop the Chinese from poaching in our EEZ. That is the US,” said Carpio who was the guest of honor and speaker at the closing ceremony of the 33rd Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig late Tuesday afternoon.
Article 12, Section 2 of the Constitution states that: “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its
archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the country would not be able to survive external threats without the US, disputing a statement by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the country could do without Washington’s military support.
President Duterte has been attacking the US over its criticism of his anti-drug war, and said he would seek closer ties with China and Russia.
Malampaya attack feared
Carpio said the country would lose billions of pesos if the Malampaya natural gas project off Palawan, Metro Manila’s power source, is attacked. The only way to protect it is to send patrol ships in the disputed waters, he said.
“The Philippines must protect its EEZ. That’s the mandate of the Constitution … if a foreign fishing vessel will poach on our waters in the EEZ, the only way we can stop them is to have a patrol there, there’s no other way,” he added.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, said Task Force Malampaya has been patrolling the area.
“The task force, including our headquarters Naval Forces West and Westcom (Western Command) frequent Malampaya. So in the process they are on the lookout for any threats to the continuous operation of Malampaya,” he said.
Asked to comment on Carpio’s statement that the AFP has the duty to patrol the country’s EEZ, Arevalo said: “Everybody agrees to the Constitution because that is the supreme law of the land.”
Still, no war games
On Wednesday, President Duterte stood firm on his decision to end the annual joint military exercises between the Philippine and the United States.
Called “Balikatan,” meaning shoulder to shoulder, the exercises have been the cornerstone of Philippine-US military relations since the US bases in the Philippines shut down more than two decades ago.
In his speech during the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday, Duterte said he had told the Defense Secretary Lorenzana “not to prepare anymore” for next year’s military exercises with the US.
“I don’t want it anymore,” he said.
The President reiterated he would maintain the military alliance with the US while the Philippines charts an “independent” course.
“I’ll chart an independent foreign policy. We will not break our alliances … But we need not really, you know, break or abrogate existing treaties because they said it would provide us with the umbrella,” Duterte said.