Supreme Court magistrate details 3 possible scenarios in arbitration case against China

By , on April 1, 2016


The Supreme Court of the Philippines building in Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Mike Gonzalez / Wikimedia Commons.)
The Supreme Court of the Philippines building in Manila, Philippines.
(Photo by Mike Gonzalez / Wikimedia Commons.)

MANILA—Three possible scenarios have been detailed by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as the Philippine awaits the resolution of its case questioning China’s Nine-Dash Line now being handled by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

He made this statement during the sidelights of his “Arbitration Ruling: Geopolitical Possibilities” which was held on Thursday at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The event is part of the 2nd Heneral Antonio Luna Colloquim Series sponsored by the National Defense College of the Philippines and Foreign Service Institute.

During the event, Carpio discussed three possible scenarios.

Carpio said the best scenario for the Philippines is if the Tribunal declares the Nine-Dash-Line void; Itu Aba does not generate an exclusive economic zone (EEZ); confirms the status of low tide elevations (LTEs) identified by the Philippines; and Scarborough Shoal generates only a territorial sea which is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen.

He said this means the Philippines would have a full 200-nautical mile EEZ excluding the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal. He said Filipino fishermen can exclusively fish within this EEZ; and fish within the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal together with Chinese fishermen;

Maritime space under dispute between the Philippines and China is reduced from over 531,000 square kilometers to just about 1,551 square kilometers of territorial sea around every Spratly island/high tide elevation and Scarborough Shoal.

Carpio said another scenario is when the Tribunal declares the Nine-Dash Line void; Scarborough Shoal generates only a territorial sea which is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen and the Tribunal does not rule on all other issues.

Possible ramifications of this ruling means that the Philippines has full 200-nautical mile EEZ except for territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal; Filipino fishermen can exclusively fish within this EEZ; and within the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal together with Chinese fishermen;

He said China/Taiwan can still claim that Itu Aba generates an EEZ that overlaps with Palawan’s EEZ; in the southern sector, the legal dispute continues in the maritime zone within 200-nautical mile around Itu Aba, which includes a small part of Reed Bank;

Maritime space under legal dispute between the Philippines and China is drastically reduced from over 531,000 square kilometers to only about 23,000 square kilometers (excluding the territorial seas of the disputed islands); freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight outside the territorial sea and territorial airspace in the south china sea are reinforced.

But Carpio said China is not expected to comply with tribunal’s ruling unless there is a strong world opinion that forces her to comply, and the Chinese people realize their historic claim has no basis.

To offset this, the magistrate said the Philippines can file a new arbitration case specifically raising as issue that itu aba does not generate an eez, and seeking confirmation of features identified as low tide elevations.

The worst case scenario for the Philippines, Carpio said, is that the tribunal does not make a ruling resulting to a status quo in the disputed area. He said the likely consequence is that china will further enforce the nine-dash line and claim its national boundaries. Carpio said this could result in the possible blocking and harassing of Philippines and other claimants’ efforts to supply the islands they occupy in the Spratlys.

Carpio said that the only defense coastal nations like the Philippines can offer against possible Chinese encroachment is to acquire warships, warplanes and missiles that could result to acceleration of a naval arms race. He said this will also prompt the us and its allies to regularly conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea/Spratlys that could create more tension.

But at the annual gathering of the Asian news industry on Wednesday, President Benigno S. Aquino III said all claimant countries in the South China Sea recognize ”that war is a futile exercise” and the whole world stands to lose “if it does amount to war.”

In the meantime, Carpio said the Philippines may invite Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei to sign an international convention declaring the Spratlys as international marine protected area and even also invite accession of china and other non-claimants to the convention to ease tension in the area.