MANILA—Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday said that the Philippines could file a separate suit against China over damages on the West Philippine Sea’s marine habitat.
In a forum in De La Salle University-Manila, Carpio reiterated the impact of China dredging in the Spratlys, which caused severe harm to the marine habitat, even to extent of destroying about seven coral reefs.
“We said that China severely damaged the marine environment, tribunal agreed and even expanded on that. Because of that, we can file a new case before UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea) tribunal to recover damages,” Carpio said.
Carpio, who was part of the Philippine delegation that argued before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), also raised anew his proposal to declare Spratlys as a marine protected area.
Citing marine biologist Dr. John McManus’ proposal in the 1990s, Carpio said that he would want to second the proposal stressing that it could be a “win-win” solution for claimant states.
“The tribunal’s ruling only settled the maritime issues. The territorial issues— as to who owns the reefs, the islands— have not been settled by the tribunal. The proposal of Dr. McManus is that all claimants must suspend their territorial claims for 50 to 100 years and declare that the Spratlys constitute a marine protected area,” Carpio said.
He further said that if this is not done, the Spratlys could suffer from a major fisheries collapse.
“The idea is for claimant states to arrange for a meeting and agree to come out with a declaration on the marine protected area but individually we can do it,” Carpio said.
“For example, in the Philippines we can declare certain reefs as marine protected area. It can be done collectively (in a convention or a treaty) or individually by the states,” he added.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, for his part, expressed hope that China will eventually adhere to the rule of law after the tribunal issued an award favorable to the Philippines.
“I think because of the award that has been handed down, all countries in the world have benefited because they are encouraged to be able to consider that freedom of navigation is stronger for all countries,” Del Rosario said.
“Even for China, the way I see it is China can look at this as a benefit for their country. China does not want to be isolated, they have this quest for being a world power and they must know that they must earn this and must have the respect of nations. China must adhere to the rule of law,” he added.