Saturday August 18, 2018

Palace junks calls to sue China over Scarborough

West Philippine Sea (File Photo)

MALACAÑANG rejected Wednesday, June 13, the call of acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio to file a fresh case against China and demand damages over the reported destruction of coral reefs in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. maintained that the Philippines would keep a “friendly” dialogue with China, with regard to the two states’ territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Roque said tension at the disputed area would only heighten if the Duterte government lodges a new case against China.

“The administration believes in diplomacy and we are a witness to how our friendly consultation and negotiation with China yielded positive results,” Roque said in a statement.

“Filing a new case against China will reverse our diplomatic gains, not to mention the cost it entails. We can therefore discuss the issue of destroyed coral reefs in Scarborough Shoal as this forms part of the area of maritime environmental protection instead of filing a new case,” he added.

Carpio, who was part of the Aquino government’s legal team that defended the Philippines’ arbitration case against China, claimed Tuesday, June 12, that China had violated its obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to “protect and preserve the marine environment.”

Carpio’s statement came after media outlet GMA News reported last June 7 that the Chinese Coast Guard personnel habitually take the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

In another report dated June 11, GMA News found that Chinese fishermen have been taking giant clams and have destroyed coral reefs in the Scarborough Shoal.

Carpio asked the Duterte administration to demand damages from China for the “economic losses” of Filipino fishermen.

“This time, the Philippines should demand damages for the economic losses of Filipino fishermen,” he said.

“We can also ask damages for the action of China in preventing our fishermen from fishing inside the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, in violation of the 12 July 2016 arbitral ruling,” he added.

On July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration declared China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea as invalid.

Duterte, however, has refused to invoke the arbitral court’s ruling.

Roque said that the negotiations between the Philippines and China are ongoing to ensure the protection and preservation of the South China Sea.

“At present, we have an existing bilateral consultation mechanism with China, which has resulted in productive exchange of views on how to boost cooperation on areas which include maritime environmental protection,” the Palace official said.

“We have had continuous discussions on environmental issues with China and both countries are committed to protecting and preserving the environment and to deal strictly with those who do not abide by relevant regulations,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)