MANILA – Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Wednesday challenged the Filipino youth to continue defending the West Philippine Sea.
This following a Chinese vessel's alleged ramming of a Filipino fishing boat near the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea, an incident that has found the Duterte administration in a bind as it sought to maintain enhanced relations with China.
The 22-man Filipino crew thrown overboard when their boat sank said the Chinese vessel abandoned them at sea. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese boat.
Malacañang has expressed doubt on the Filipino fishers' story, citing inconsistent narrations. President Rodrigo Duterte has called the mishap a "maritime incident."
“We have to continue defending West Philippine Sea because that’s our duty,” he said after he administered the oath of office on Kabataan Party-List Rep. Sarah Jane Elago at the Supreme Court.
Carpio had earlier said the Chinese vessel may have been a militia ship under the command of the Chinese Navy.
“My generation laid the foundation by winning the arbitral ruling. The West Philippine Sea belongs to the Philippines and the next generation, including your generation, must build on these foundations so that our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea will belong truly to the Filipinos and all the resources there, the fish, oil and gas resources will be enjoyed exclusively by Filipino citizens, including Reed Bank because that’s part of our EEZ,” he added.
Carpio was referring to the July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal which declared several areas in the South China Sea, including the Reed Bank, part of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal State enjoys sovereign rights over the natural resources of its EEZ. This means only the Philippines can explore, exploit, conserve and manage resources in the area.
In 2012, former President Benigno Aquino III issued an administrative order renaming portions of the South China Sea that fall within the Philippines’ EEZ as the West Philippine Sea.
In response to Carpio’s statements, Elago assured Carpio that her group is accepting the challenge.
She said the youth sector needs to speak up particularly on the Reed Bank incident.
“Mahalaga pong malaman ng ating mga kababayang mangingisda na kakampi nila ang kabataan at marami silang kakampi para magdemand ng pananagutan sa nangyari sa Reed Bank. Isa rin itong wake-up call sa ating mga kababayang Pilipino na marami pa tayong kinakailangan na pagkilos,” she said.
(It is important for our fishermen to know that the youth are on their side and they have many allies in demanding accountability for what happened at Reed Bank. It's a wake-up call for Filipinos that there is still much we need to do.)
She said Filipinos should continue showing love for country and the readiness to defend it.
Elago said she chose Carpio to administer her oath of office to send “a strong message that the Filipino youth are resolute, decisive and ready to stand with all those who have long fought [for] and are working to defend our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
She said Carpio was one of those who have been making a stand for the country's sovereignty. The magistrate has been among the most vocal advocates of defending the country's sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.