Carpio suggests turning Spratlys into 'marine peace park'

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 14 2016 06:00 PM | Updated as of Jul 14 2016 09:13 PM

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has offered a solution for the disputed areas in the Spratlys, with countries suspending claims to the islands for 50 to 100 years.

Speaking on ANC's Headstart with Karen Davila, Carpio echoed a suggestion from American marine biologist Professor John McManus to make the area an international marine peace park.

"He said that the Spratlys be turned into an international marine peace park so the countries will suspend all their territorial claims for 50 or 100 years and allow the reef to regrow and be the breeding ground of the fish," he said.

He explained, "the larvae of the egg that are spawned in the Spratlys are carried by currents all the way to the coast of China, Vietnam, Luzon, Palawan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Sulu Sea."

"Everybody benefits," he said.

Though there are reefs that have been dredged and reclaimed by the construction of military facilities, Carpio said there are still reefs that remain alive and may serve as breeding ground for marine life.

"We have to preserve that. Whatever remains of the Spratlys as breeding ground, we have to preserve that. It is for the benefit of all the coastal states," he said.

Part of this suggestion he echoed from McManus would be the conversion of the military facilities into marine research facilities and eco-tourism facilities.

Naval military forces will also not be allowed to patrol the area, and only the civilian coast guards will be allowed to have personnel and ships there, according to Carpio.

He cited that this has been done to resolve the tensions between Israel and Jordan in the Red Sea, "and finally as part of the peace agreement, they put up a peace park over the area that they quarreled over, over disputed water area."

"It is a proposal that is a win-win solution for everybody. Nobody loses face because the disputes are set aside for the next 50 to 100 years and everybody benefits from that solution," he said.

Carpio gives this proposal as the better option than charging China for letting it stay in the Mischief Reef.

Mischief is among the disputed areas in the South China Sea that has been awarded to Manila by the Permanent Arbitration Court, but before the court's decision, China has built its biggest military facility in the area there.

Carpio said "China will not just roll over and abandon that," but he added, there's no real urgency for the Philippines to kick them out yet.

What's more urgent, he said, is to develop Reed Bank, also awarded to Manila, which contains natural gas.

"Legally, that structure there of China is against UNCLOS, therefore it is an illegal structure, and legally they should vacate. But of course China will not vacate. It will take time," he said.

Since they are technically squatting on Philippine territory, Carpio said the Philippines may negotiate for charging commercial rent--not sovereign rent, which will be unconstitutional.

"That could be one of the negotiating points that we can raise. Since you are there already and you have put that up without our consent and the tribunal said only the Philippines can do that, we can charge them. There is no problem," he said.