From Cory Aquino to Duterte, China 'consistently aggressive' in sea row — Carpio

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 28 2020 12:20 PM

MANILA -- China has been "consistently aggressive" in claiming ownership of Philippine waters, from the administration of the late former President Cory Aquino up to that of President Rodrigo Duterte, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Monday. 

"How can you say that the relationship has been rosy with all other Presidents except President Noynoy Aquino? No. China has been consistently aggressive all throughout, whoever the President is," he told ANC. 

During the Aquino administration, China in 1987 built a radar weather station in Fiery Cross Reef. The facility is now “a huge naval base,” said Carpio. 

Beijing also seized Subi Reef in 1988, followed by Mischief Reef in 1996 under then President Fidel Ramos, said the former senior associate justice. 

Ramos' successor Joseph Estrada had to deploy naval ships in Ayungin and Scarborough Shoals to prevent China from seizing them. The ships were later recalled on the request of China. 

Under the next administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, China lent the Philippines $1 billion for the NorthRail project and national broadband network under the condition of agreeing to a joint marine seismic undertaking. 

Around $200 million was spent for the NorthRail, but "not a single meter of railroad track was finished" so the project was cancelled. 

The broadband deal meanwhile was investigated for corruption, he said. 

As for the joint seismic study, "nothing" came out of it because the data from China were “hazy”, Carpio said, citing the energy department.

In 2012, China seized Scarborough from the Philippines, under then President Benigno Aquino III. His administration pursued an arbitration case against Beijing, which in 2016 led to the junking of its supposed "historic rights" to the West Philippine Sea. 

President Rodrigo Duterte previously shelved the 2016 arbitral award that junked China's "historic claims" to the West Philippine Sea, as he pursued loans and investments from Beijing. 

Under his administration, China seized Sandy Cay located some 2 miles off Philippine-controlled Pag-asa Island that Chinese vessels had recently swarmed, said Carpio. 

Sandy Cay accounts for a third of the Philippine territorial sea in Pag-asa, which is estimated to be 51,000 hectares big or about 3 times the size of Quezon City, he earlier said. 

Several months ago, Chinese ships also conducted confirmatory surveys at Reed Bank, Carpio said. 

Duterte last week told the UN General Assembly that the Philippines "firmly rejects" any attempt to undermine the ruling. 

Manila can rally an "overwhelming majority" of allies if it raises its arbitral triumph against Beijing before the United Nations, said Carpio.