MANILA - The Philippines must protect and develop Recto Bank (Reed Bank) as losing it could lead to 12 to 14 hours of blackouts, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio said Tuesday.
Recto Bank, situated 85 nautical miles from Palawan, is said to be rich in oil and natural gas.
"We are now being pressured to produce gas from the West Philippine Sea, Malampaya is running out of gas. To avoid 12 to 14 hour brownouts, we will have to import LNG (liquefied natural gas) and that will make our power very expensive. It’s one of the most expensive already in Asia," Carpio told ANC's Headstart.
"Without Malampaya we’ll be having 12 to 14 hours of daily brownouts in Luzon. Factories will close, schools will close, it will be worse than the pandemic. You cannot even work from home because there's no power, no internet so we really have to preserve and develop Reed Bank."
China's use of water cannon against Philippine boats in Ayungin Shoal on Nov. 16 is a "big escalation" in the two nations' maritime dispute, according to Carpio.
Three Chinese Coast Guard vessels had blocked and used water cannons on 2 Filipino supply boats, which were transporting food supplies to military personnel at the BRP Sierra Madre based in Ayungin Shoal.
"This is really the first time China used its Coast Guard law against the Philippines and this is a big escalation because the use of force is outlawed under the UN charter and the international law," he said.
"A state cannot use force to settle territorial or maritime dispute with another state. They must use peaceful means such as negotiation, mediation or arbitration and that's what we did in Scarborough Shoal."
China's use of water cannons, however, does not trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and US because it was not an armed attack, Carpio said.
"But the Americans have reiterated if the Chinese were using armed force that will trigger the operation of the treaty...that should give us assurance why we should be very forceful in protecting our rights in the West Philippine Sea," he added.
Ayungin Shoal can be used as a military naval outpost to monitor China's activities in Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) and Recto Bank, according to the retired justice.
"China doesn’t want the Philippine Navy to be in Ayungin Shoal because it's very near Mischief Reef, their biggest air and naval base in the South China Sea. It’s their Pearl Harbor in the South China Sea," he said.
"They want the Philippine Navy out of Ayungin Shoal because it’s too close, we can monitor what they're doing and with our Navy in Ayungin Shoal we can use that as a jumping board to protect our oil and gas in Reed Bank."
The Philippines will have to wait for the next administration to make a move against China as President Rodrigo Duterte won't do so, Carpio said.
"Remember, President Duterte said President Xi is my protector. In case of a mutiny, he will protect me. How can that vassal go against his protector.
We will have to wait for the next administration," he said.
"There’s no long term strategy because Duterte is only thinking of himself, of his commitment to President Xi."