THE Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has advised President Rodrigo Duterte to stop declarations that impliedly waive Philippine sovereignty over any parts of its territory.
In a statement, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Duterte, the country's commander-in-chief, is tasked to defend the nation's territory.
Carpio made the statement following Duterte's admission that he allowed China to conduct research activities on Benham Rise.
According to Carpio, although Benham Rise is not part of the Philippine territory because we do not have sovereignty over it, the Philippines has the "sovereign right" to explore and exploit the oil, gas and other mineral resources in the area as provided under Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Another statement of the President that Carpio would like to clarify was his pronouncement that he "cannot stop" China from building facilities at the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) since the country cannot afford to be at war with a superpower.
Carpio noted that under Republic Act 9522 or the Philippines’ Baseline Law, Scarborough Shoal is part of the Philippine territory.
The Senior Associate Justice said that since the Philippines cannot match China's military power, the President can fulfill his constitutional duty of protecting the country's territory by doing following:
"1. File a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity. This is the least that the President should do. This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels.
2. Send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal. If the Chinese forces attack Philippine navy vessels, then the President can invoke the Philippines-US Mutual defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea.
3. Ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty since the shoal has been part of Philippine territory even during the American colonial period. The US has declared the Senkakus as part of Japanese territory for purposes of the US-Japan mutual defense treaty.
4. Accept the standing US offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, which includes Scarborough Shoal. This will demonstrate joint Philippine and US determination to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.
5. Avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea."
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague in July last year ruled that the Philippines has the right over parts of the South China Sea, contrary to the claims of China over almost the entire waterway.
The PCA said there was no legal basis for China to claim "historic rights" over the West Philippine Sea in excess to the rights provided by the UNCLOS.
The standoff in 2012 between Chinese and Filipino vessels and the continued intimidation by the Chinese government had prompted the government, then led by President Benigno Aquino III, to seek relief from the international court. (SunStar Philippines)