Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday refuted repeated claims by President Rodrigo Duterte that China "is in control" of the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio, who has been pressing Malacanang to invoke the Philippine's arbitral victory against China, said China is in control of only a fraction of the total area of the West Philippine Sea, and the president should take care to avoid looking as if he is giving control of the whole area to the other nation.
"Napakalawak ng West Philippine Sea... Ang area niyan mas malaki pa sa total land area ng Pilipinas," said the former Supreme Court official in an interview on Teleradyo.
"'Yung sinasabi ng presidente na ang China is in control - China is in control of eight islands. Geological features, artificial islands plus Scarborough Shoal. Ang total area niyan ay less than 7-6 percent of the total of West Philippine Sea. Napakaliit ang kontrol ng Tsina."
Carpio said Duterte should be more specific in making pronouncements, because it appears that the president is surrendering more than what is being claimed.
"Presidente ka tapos nagsalita ka ng 'E hawak ng Tsina 'yan e. In possession, in control.' Hindi ganyan e," said Carpio. "Kailangan very specific ka magsalita, kasi you are conceding more than what China is claiming."
"In fact, hindi naman kine-claim ng Tsina na they are in possession of the West Philippine Sea. They never have they claimed [it]. Pero si presidente kino-concede niya agad."
Carpio said Malacañang's lack of enthusiasm over the country's claims translates to potential losses.
He cited that the much contested Reed bank, which is about 80 nautical miles from Palawan, is twice as large as Malampaya.
"'Yung Malampaya ang estimate ng gas reserve ay nasa $22 billion to $24 billion. E Maliit yan compared o Reed bank, doble ang Reed Bank," he said.
"'Yung Reed Bank part of Exclusive Economic Zone ng Pilipinas. Meaning lahat ng langis dyan, gas o fish ang may ari ay ang Pilipinas."
Carpio said that this is the point of the a United Nations-backed court ruling that favored Manila over Beijing's claim.
"Ngayon kung ang sasabihin ni presidente we are not in possession, e back to square one tayo. Dapat bawiin nya na lang (ang sinabi niya). Madali lang bawiin 'yan," he said.