MANILA - Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes China will comply with the arbitral ruling in the South China Sea with the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Philippines on joint oil and gas exploration.
"Yes, I believe so, and to quote Secretary Teddyboy Locsin: 'We are almost there,'" Carpio said in a speech he delivered at the University of the Philippines Law Alumni Homecoming Thursday.
During a visit in Manila in November 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the MOU on joint cooperation to explore and exploit oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea despite its position that Beijing would never recognize Manila's arbitral victory.
The 2016 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated Beijing nine-dash line doctrine, its basis for claiming more than 80 percent of the South China Sea.
Carpio said the Terms of Reference to implement the MOU have been signed by both countries and the steering committee already had its first meeting in Beijing last week.
Under the MOU and TOR, Carpio said China through its state-owned commercial enterprise China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) will participate in exploring and extracting oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea as a service contractor or through service contractor of the Philippine government.
"A service contractor acknowledges that the oil and gas belong to the Philippine Government. A service contractor does not claim to be the owner of the oil and gas, otherwise it will not just be a service contractor if it believes it owns the oil and gas," Carpio said.
Through the MOU, TOR and the service contract, Carpio said this should be sufficient to protect the sovereign rights of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
"As long as we stick to the MOU and TOR, which recognize the service contract as the mode of cooperation between the Philippines and China, we do not compromise our sovereign rights.
He also does not see the need to demand China to expressly waive in writing any claim to sovereign rights within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea.
"We cannot expect China to expressly admit in writing to its own people that the historical narrative that the Chinese government taught them for the last 70 years is totally false. We have to help China make a face-saving exit before its own people without, however, compromising our own sovereign rights," he said.
Meanwhile, he stressed the need keep the pressure on China and continue to convince the Duterte administration to assert Philippine sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea under the rule of law.
"Only then can we be assured that our sovereign rights will remain permanently with us for the benefit of the present generation of Filipinos, and the generations of Filipinos still to come," he said.