MANILA— Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday urged the international community to oppose China's new coast guard law, and said it should be invalidated before relevant international courts.
Speaking on a webinar on maritime challenges in Southeast Asia, Carpio said China’s new law is “an actual threat of force on fishing vessels of all states that fish in the high seas of the South China Sea,” which violates the United Nations (UN) Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The retired magistrate pointed out during the webinar that these laws aim to prevent such threat, as well as the use of force. He also noted that disputes must be settled through peaceful means.
“China’s new coast guard law is definitely a great threat to the continuance of the law of the sea and a great threat to world peace. The world must therefore resolutely oppose China’s new coast guard law and seek its invalidation before relevant international tribunals," explained Carpio during the event.
China’s new coast guard law, which took effect on Feb. 1 this year, authorizes the Chinese coast guard to fire at other countries' ships that fish or conduct economic activities in waters claimed by China, even if these are “situated beyond the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, or extended continental shelf of China.”
Other activities prohibited in the said areas include surveying and drilling for oil gas.
This means, he said, that Beijing's coast guard can just fire at other countries' fishing vessels, which is "an actual threat of force" to countries fishing in the resource-rich and disputed South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) there.
China continues to shun a 2016 UN-backed ruling invalidating their claims to 90 percent of the area, and had instead ramped up militarization in the waters.
Chinese authorities are also invoking its 9-dash line encroaching on the exclusive economic zone of several Southeast Asian coastal states.
“This Philippine EEZ can no longer be disputed by China. However, under its new law, China’s Coast Guard can now fire at Philippine ships that conduct surveys in the Reed Bank or Philippine vessels that fish within this Philippine EEZ. This threat of force against Philippine vessels is even a more blatant violation of the UN Charter and UNCLOS,” he added.
Carpio said that fish under the high seas “belong to all mankind” under UNCLOS, or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and that “any state in the world” has the right to fish in the high seas of the South China Sea.
He also urged other countries to question China's fresh coast guard law before international courts.
“If China’s new Coast Guard law is allowed to stand, both the UN Charter and UNCLOS will no longer apply in the South China Sea, even in East China Sea," he emphasized.
"These two seas will revert to the situation that existed before the two world wars where states acquired territories through the threat or use of force,” he explained.
PROTECTING PH MARINE RESOURCES
Meanwhile, in a taped video message, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu stressed the need to protect marine resources and biodiversity, saying food security and national interest are at stake.
“We have our very national interest at stake here, in terms of territory and food security, sovereignty and sovereign rights, and biodiversity and other natural resources,” according to Cimatu.
The value of illegally caught fish in Philippine waters is estimated to be at P63 billion a year, as reported recently by the United States Agency for International Development and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The webinar was organized by the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
The Philippines in January filed a diplomatic protest against China’s new coast guard law, with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. saying the law involves the contested South China Sea and is a “verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law.”