MANILA — Malacañang on Thursday dismissed Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s concerns that China would try to regain full control of Scarborough Shoal before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo criticized Carpio, when the magistrate said he believes that Beijing would reclaim the rocky outcrop and turn it into their island before the end of Duterte’s term.
“Can he (Carpio) read the mind of the Chinese government? We don’t know. But definitely gaya ng sinasabi ni presidente, ‘I will not allow during my incumbency any assault on our sovereignty’,” Panelo told reporters.
Panelo also took a swipe at Carpio for speculating on China’s possible actions after the latter projected that Beijing would make a move on Scarborough Shoal before signing a code of conduct on the South China Sea, therefore using the Code to protect their artificial islands from attack.
“Ito namang fraternity brod ko na justice, he’s very fond in engaging in speculation,” Panelo said.
Both Carpio and Panelo are members of the Sigma Rho fraternity based at the University of the Philippines College of Law.
Scarborough, called by Filipinos as Panatag Shoal and by the Chinese as Huangyan Island, was the site of a 2012 standoff between the Philippines and China, which happened when Manila sent its biggest warship to chase off Chinese poachers.
China gained effective control of the shoal after Manila withdrew its vessel. It then started blocking Filipino fishermen from the shoal. Tensions in the area eased as President Duterte sought closer ties with Beijing.
Following Carpio’s prediction, Malacañang assured the public that the government would object to actions that go against Manila’s rights in the West Philippine Sea and noted that it “can always try” to stop Beijing from seizing the area.
“Everything that will go against the arbitral ruling will of course be objectionable for us. I think that’s a given because we are against any intrusion into the sovereign affairs of the land,” he said.
“That arbitral ruling is final, binding and not subject to appeal.”