MANILA - Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday rebuffed President Rodrigo Duterte anew as he reiterated that China is not in possession of the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, Carpio said China is only in possession of seven features in the Spratlys, Scarborough Shoal, and Sandy Cay.
"The total area of these geologic features, including their territorial seas (if any), is less than 7 percent of the WPS," he explained.
"Foreign naval powers (US, UK, France, Australia, Japan, and Canada) continuously sail and conduct naval drills in the South China Sea, including the WPS, demonstrating that China is not in possession of the WPS," Carpio added.
Carpio also said the fishing boats used by the Chinese do not qualify for traditional fishing, which he explained only applies "in the territorial sea and archipelagic waters."
"There is no traditional fishing in the EEZ. This very clear in the arbitral award of 12 July 2016. Reed Bank is part of Philippine EEZ. There can be no traditional fishing in Reed Bank," he explained.
"Traditional fishing is artisanal fishing using small, simple fishing boats like the wooden boats, with outriggers, of Filipino fishermen. The Chinese steel-hulled trawlers cannot qualify for traditional fishing," Carpio added.
Duterte promised Monday that his administration would stand up for the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea in “due time,” as his dealings with Beijing came under close scrutiny in light of rising maritime tensions.
The President has come under fire over a verbal agreement with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on fishing in disputed waters just weeks after a Chinese ship hit and sank a Filipino fishing boat in the area, which he called a simple maritime incident.
Duterte previously said that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping once warned him against drilling for oil in Manila's waters.
China has conflicting claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, which is rich in marine resources. It is also believed to have vast natural gas and oil reserves.
In 2016, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s 9-dash line claim. The ruling also made clear that the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
- with reports from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News