ACTING Chief Justice Antonio Carpio insisted that war is not an option to settle various territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea as the Philippine Constitution prohibits war as an instrument of national policy.
Carpio spoke to lawyers, judges, and more than 300 law students of the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos during the Barristers Night held at SMX Convention Center in Bacolod City Friday.
The United Nations Charter also bans war in settling territorial and marine disputes, he pointed out, adding that the country won a landmark case against China in the United Nation's Tribunal.
However, disputes continue with the firm assertion of China that it has superior dominance in the South China Sea over the other claimants.
He said about $5.3 trillion in ship-borne trade and goods traverse the South China Sea every year. That is about one half of the ship-borne trade in gross tonnage every year.
Four leading exporters of the world namely China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan use the South China Sea for their maritime trade, he said.
South Korea imports about 65 percent of its petroleum through the South China Sea; Japan and Taiwan have 60 percent of its petroleum imports passed the South China sea; and for China, 80 percent of its petroleum imports passed through the narrow strait of Malaca before 2015.
“This is a very narrow strait and if it is blocked, China will not get oil and China's economy will grind to a halt. So China built this oil and gas pipelines which became operational in 2015,” he said.
So starting 2015, 30% of China's oil imports pass through this pipelines that cross Myanmar to Kunming in Yunnan Province, he said.
The South China Sea, though it only occupies 2.4 percent of the world's ocean surface, accounts for 12 percent of the annual fish catch in the world valued at about $21 billion.
“It is very rich in fish because of the Spratly Islands, an area where the fish spawned,” Carpio said.
He added: “Two billion people from 10 countries live along the coasts around the South China Sea. About 300 million depend on fish from the South China Sea.”
The South China Sea is also very rich in methane hydrates which are considered to be the fuel of the future, he said.
Meanwhile, Carpio said he agrees with the recommendation of Marine Biologist John McNamus to convert Spratlys to a marine protected area as a major breeding ground for fishes.
"If we don't establish a marine protected area in the Spratlys, we are headed towards a major fisheries collapse in this part of the world that will lead to mass starvation as 300 million people depend on the fishes in the South China Sea,” he said.
The solution is really on the conversion of the Spratlys as a marine protected area, he added.
He added that the countries claiming territorial in Spratly should suspend their claims for 100 years and convert the existing structures there into marine science research and tourists zones so there will be no dispute anymore and allow the reefs to be the breeding ground for fishes.