Philippines must exercise rights to build structures within EEZ in WPS: Carpio


Antonio Carpio. - The Star file picture

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): The Philippines should exercise its rights and build structures within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea to deter foreign incursions, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Thursday (April 15).

The retired magistrate backed a proposal of American technology and research company Simularity for the Philippines to put up outposts in its unoccupied features in the West Philippine Sea.

“That will be effective because the arbitral award says we have an EEZ and within the EEZ only the coastal state, the Philippines can put up structures, artificial structures, and we have to exercise that right, ” he said in an interview with ABS CBN News Channel.

The international arbitral ruling in The Hague in 2016 declared China’s nine-dash claim to most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, as invalid and baseless.

China, according to the ruling, violated Philippine sovereignty and Filipinos’ right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing continues to reject the ruling.

Liz Derr, CEO and co-founder of Simularity, in an online forum on Wednesday said the Philippines should occupy the unoccupied Spratly features within its EEZ to protect its sovereignty.

She said this can be done through inexpensive means like building lighthouses and monitoring stations, without having to disturb ecology. Vietnam, she said, managed to do this without provoking a war with China.

“There are many unoccupied features within the Philippine EEZ. They are basically sitting there for the taking, ” she said, urging the Philippines to focus on efforts to make sure no more features are taken.

The 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea requires all signatories to seek peaceful resolutions to disputes to maintain regional stability. This includes the ban on building and occupying unoccupied features.

However, Carpio believes Derr’s suggestion can be done.

According to him, the Philippines can build on features within the EEZ that are submerged at high tide because the arbitral award said those waters belong to the Philippines.

“There is the Declaration of Conduct of 2002 which prohibited the building of structures in uninhabited features but we should interpret this to mean that territorial dispute, to refer to the territorial dispute, to features that are above water at high tide, ” he said.

“If they were unoccupied in 2002, you cannot occupy them now, ” Carpio added.

“But with respect to the EEZ which are submerged at high tide, the tribunal said, those are EEZ, and under UNCLOS it is only the Philippines that can put up an artificial structure, so we should take advantage of that.”

“Otherwise, China will beat us. China will just put up something there, and there’s nothing we can do. We should put up structures within our EEZ, ” he also said. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

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