MANILA – Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio took a dig Monday at President Rodrigo Duterte for saying he could not stop China from building on the disputed Scarborough Shoal also known as Panatag Shoal because it was too powerful.
“The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, which are expressly tasked by the Constitution to defend the national territory. Under RA No. 9522, Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine national territory… Any statement that the Philippines cannot stop China from building on Scarborough Shoal actually encourages China to build on Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio wrote in a statement.
He listed the powers of the commander-in-chief, and alluded to Sunday’s pre-departure remarks by the President that even if China has announced it would soon build structures on Scarborough shoal – off the western side of Luzon – there was nothing he could do to stop Beijing.
It was reported earlier that the mayor of China’s Sansha City said the Asian giant – which continues to defy a July 2016 ruling by a UN arbitral tribunal favoring Manila – would set up an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal.
Sought for comment, Duterte told journalists before departing for Myanmar, “We cannot stop China from doing (these) things.”
“What do you want me to do? Declare war against China? I can’t. We will lose all our military and policemen tomorrow and we (will be) a destroyed nation,” he added.
Duterte said he would tell the Chinese: “Just keep it (the waters) open and do not interfere with our coast guard.”
Carpio on Monday listed five things Duterte can do to “fulfill his constitutional duty” given that “the Philippines is no match to China militarily”.
First – and the least Duterte can do according to Carpio – is to “file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity”.
Carpio explained that the Vietnamese did this recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracel Islands.
Second, Duterte can “send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal”. Should the Chinese attack, Duterte can “invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea”.
Third, Duterte can “ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Phil-US Mutual Defense Treaty”.
To back this up, Carpio’s source – The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea – from the 1960s to the 1980s, American and Philippine militaries used Scarborough Shoal “as an impact range for their warplanes and warships”. American and Philippine authorities then issued Notices to Mariners worldwide when they would hold “bombing runs or gunnery exercises”.