Carpio: PH should refuse China’s request for marine research in Philippine Rise
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, Januaray 15) — “If a bully has squatted on your front yard, and requests to look at your backyard, would you grant the request of the bully?”
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio posed this question in the wake of reports the government granted China’s request “to study the waters off the eastern parts of Luzon.”
Magdalo party list Rep. Gary Alejano said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) approved the request of the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences for a marine scientific research in Philippine waters.
Alejano added the project area includes resource-rich Benham Rise, now officially called Philippine Rise after President Duterte renamed it in May 2017.
Philippine Rise is a 13-million hectare undersea plateau that lies 216 kilometers (135 miles) east of coast of Aurora province. The extended continental shelf — as declared by the United Nations — is wider than the island of Luzon.
Both Malacañang and DFA did not confirm nor deny approving a Chinese think tank’s request.
But Carpio pointed out China has squatted on the West Philippine Sea and refuses to leave despite the ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) tribunal.
“The Philippines would be dumb (bugok) to grant China’s request,” Carpio said in an e-mail statement to CNN Philippines.
By refusing to accept the award of the UNCLOS arbitral, he explained China is not accepting its obligation under UNCLOS.
“China should not be allowed to enjoy its rights under UNCLOS, like conducting marine scientific research (MSR) in Benham Rise, while it refuses to accept its obligation under the arbitral award. Otherwise, China is cherry picking and not taking UNCLOS as one package deal,” Carpio said.
The senior magistrate cited Article 246 of UNCLOS, stating, “Coastal States shall, in normal circumstances, grant their consent for marine scientific research projects by other States.”
“The refusal of China to comply with the arbitral award of the UNCLOS tribunal is not a ‘normal circumstance,’ and thus the Philippines should refuse China’s request for MSR in Benham Rise,” Carpio noted.
Carpio further explained there’s no law regulating MSR in the extended continental shelf (beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone) like Benham Rise.
But he said the country having ratified UNCLOS, makes the international convention part of the Philippine legal system.
“Under Article 246 of UNCLOS, the Philippines has an obligation to allow foreign states to conduct MSR in its continental shelf like Benham Rise ‘to increase scientific knowledge of the marine environment for the benefit of all mankind.’ Thus, the results of the MSR must be made known to the whole world,” Carpio added.
The senior magistrate added the marine research of foreign states in Benham Rise is purely for scientific research, and cannot be conducted to explore the mineral resources for purposes of exploitation of these resources.
Carpio pointed out, “Neither the President nor the Foreign Secretary can waive this exclusive sovereign right to a foreign state. To ensure that the foreign state conducting MSR in our extended continental shelf is not exploring for purposes of exploitation, Filipino marine scientists must be on board the foreign research vessels.”