MANILA - China is trying to overturn a ruling by an arbitral court that said the Philippines has exclusive economic rights to the West Philippine Sea by sending hundreds of ships to the area, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Thursday.
Beijing is "trying to resurrect its arguments, trying to amend" the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by insisting on its supposed traditional fishing rights in the Manila's EEZ, he said.
"The purpose of China is to overturn the arbitral award. The arbitral award said we have an exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, up to 200 nautical miles. China is saying now, we have traditional fishing rights in the West Philippine Sea, in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines," he told ANC's Headstart.
"That overturns the arbitral award because under UNCLOS, there is no traditional fishing in the exclusive economic zone. There is only traditional fishing in the territorial sea and the archipelagic waters...The West Philippine Sea are not archipelagic waters, they are not territorial waters," he said.
Carpio said the UNCLOS, ratified by the Philippines and many other states, maintains that no traditional or historic rights can impede on another country's EEZ of up to 200 nautical miles.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said Tuesday at least 240 Chinese ships were found in various parts of the West Philippine Sea. The report said 136 Chinese maritime militia vessels were spotted at Burgos (Gaven) Reef.
Carpio said sending these many ships in the middle of a pandemic shows that "China will never lose an opportunity."
"If there’s a crisis, it will take advantage of that crisis. If there’s a pandemic, it’s taking advantage of the pandemic by sending its maritime militia vessels there. Why is it doing now? Because it believes might is right," he said.
"China is showing to the world it doesn’t care about international law, it doesn’t care about world opinion and it has President (Rodrigo) Duterte as its ally," he said.