Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio held an in-depth discourse on asserting the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea, a forum on territorial integrity, conflict management and diplomacy last Thursday, March 17, 2016 from 1:00-5:30 p.m. at the Albert Van Gansewinkel Hall, USC Downtown Campus.
Eminent guests, visitors from the different schools and Carolinians engaged themselves in the forum to deepen their understanding on one of the most debated issues of international relations. “The discourse is something very critical, involving not just issues of sovereignty and security but as well as our identity as a nation.” Stated Grace Chua Magalzo-Bualat, Department Chair of the Department of Political Science in her opening remarks. She also stated that it was a matter that every Filipino must know and understand.
Hon. Justice Antonio T. Carpio began his lecture by declaring what was at stake if Philippines lost in the dispute of the South China Sea, which includes the West Philippine sea — the body of water that comprises the territorial sea , exclusive economic zone and the extended continental shelf of the Philippines. The Philippines would lose 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 100 percent of its extended continental shelf (ECS) of maritime space. He stated that this is the greatest external threat to the Philippines since World War II.
“China is stealing what belongs to mankind” declared, Hon. Carpio. He elaborated on how China was and is still actively exploiting and claiming 900 nautical miles, building up submerged islands and destroying 17 reefs, suggesting that this was China’s grand design over the years. This has been China’s creeping expansion towards the nine-dash line in the South China Sea since 1946 .
The speaker touched on the history of China’s expansion, starting from seizing an amputant group of the Paracel Islands and the Itu Aba Island. Since then, China has been seized the Subi Reef, Johnson South (Mabini) reef, Scarborough Shoal, Luconia Shoals and has been constructing naval bases on their seized territories since 2014.
“China has a grand design to control the South China Sea for their economic and military purposes. China wants the oil, gas and fishes within the nine-dash lines to provide for the growing 1.4 billion Chinese people.” asserted, Hon. Carpio.
Later in his lecture, he illustrated the historical records and compiled archives of China where the chronological events began in 1907 and their claim on Spratly Islands in 1935. The Philippines, meanwhile already possessed a 1595 Ortelius Map of the Philippines including the Spratly Islands.
“There is no way we can lose in the arbitration because if the tribunal says we don’t have a right to our continental shelf then the law of the sea is gone. It will collapse and there would be no UNCLOS anymore,” said Hon. Carpio.
Finally, Hon. Carpio encouraged the audience to fight for Scarborough Shoal and be actively engaged in the Philippine’s largest historic to prevent the loss of this maritime space.