MANILA - Allowing China to patrol Sandy Cay might legitimize their claim to most of the South China Sea, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said Wednesday.
Beijing has filed a claim to about 85 percent of the South China Sea before the United Nations in 2009 and the presence of its coast guard vessels "anywhere within the nine-dash line is to enforce their claim," said Carpio.
"China is now patrolling our territorial sea, which should never happen because we have sovereignty over that...Because China is claiming that, we should not allow it to patrol because if we allow China to patrol, they will later on say ‘You already agreed that we own this because we are patrolling it now,'" he told ANC's Headstart.
"We should be very careful in allowing anything that China will interpret later as acquiescence to their claim," he added.
Sandy Cay, located some 2 miles off Philippine-controlled Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island), has become a "territory" which is entitled to 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, Carpio said.
If China controls and has sovereignty over Sandy Cay, he said the Philippines would lose 1/3 of its territorial sea in Pag-asa, which is estimated to be 51,000 hectares big or about 3 times the size of Quezon City.
"If China controls Sandy Cay, their presence in Subi Reef will be legitimized," he said, referring to one of the islands where China has built military bases.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano earlier this month claimed President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop the patrols in the West Philippine Sea. Military and government officials denied this.
Last year, Duterte said he would not confront China over the reported presence of its ships in Sandy Cay after he was given assurances by Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and the Chinese Foreign Ministry that Beijing has no plans to occupy or build structures over the sandbar.