MANILA - Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday warned against the “collapse” of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) if China succeeds in “seizing the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other coastal states bordering the South China Sea.”
Countries that will suffer most, he said, are the Pacific island-states that have no military force to rely on and only have UNCLOS to protect their vast EEZs but have “unfortunately been drawn to China’s orbit of enticing loans."
"The countries that will suffer the most are the small islands states in the Pacific whose vast exclusive economic zones will be open to China’s fishing fleet, the largest in the world, once UNCLOS collapses,” Carpio said during a virtual book launch.
He also refuted China’s claim that the 2016 Philippine win against the Asian superpower in the arbitral court could not be enforced, saying that the naval drills conducted by the naval powers in the South China Sea are “the most robust enforcement of the arbitral ruling.”
Carpio said the arbitral ruling provided the basis for the naval drills as they showed that there were high seas in the South China Sea and that around these high seas were exclusive economic zones of coastal states.
“On the contrary, the arbitral ruling is being enforced almost on a daily basis. Every time the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Australia, Canada and India conduct naval drills in the South China Sea, under the freedom of navigation and overflight principles recognized under international law and UNCLOS, the arbitral ruling is being enforced,” Carpio said.
Stressing that the Philippines won a clear cut victory that invalidated China’s 9-dash line claim over the South China Sea, Carpio said that the Philippines has a full exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles from the coastline in the West Philippine Sea.
“When these naval powers conduct naval drills in the West Philippine Sea, they are telling China that there is an exclusive economic zone of a coastal state in the West Philippine Sea and in the exclusive economic zone, there is freedom of navigation and overflight, including the freedom to conduct naval drills," he said.
With China still refusing to comply with the arbitral court’s ruling, it has become “a permanent rogue state in the community of civilized nations," Carpio said.
He said other nuclear armed states have complied even with adverse rulings of the international court, except China.
“China cannot serve as model for other states. China will have no soft power to persuade other countries to take its side in its competition with the United States,” Carpio said.
Carpio was chief guest during the virtual book launch of “The Politics of South China Sea Disputes.” Written by Nehginpao Kipgen, the book is a comprehensive political study of the South China Sea disputes.