MANILA, Philippines — Freedom of navigation and overflight operations of naval powers in the South China Sea serve as an advantage for the Philippines, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Friday.
Speaking at a forum on the West Philippine Sea, Carpio noted that several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan, India and Canada have been conducting FONOPs in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
“These FONOPs assert that there is freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea because there are high seas and exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea,” Carpio said.
According to Carpio, these countries assert that there is an EEZ in the West Philippine Sea when they conduct naval operations.
Under international law, there is freedom of navigation and overflight in the high seas and of the world. West Philippine Sea is the portion of the South China Sea that is within Philippine EEZ.
Carpio noted that the Philippines is the only coastal state adjacent to the West Philippine Sea, which means that its resources could only belong to the country.
“The FONOPs of these naval powers powerfully refute the Chinese claim that there are no high seas and exclusive economic zones within China’s nine-dashed line claim in the South China Sea,” Carpio said.
Noting the FONOPs of naval powers have increased in the past two years, Carpio said these operations, in turn, enforce the arbitral award that Beijing refuses to acknowledge.
“These FONOPs are the most robust enforcement of the arbitral award,” he added.
The SC magistrate, however, lamented that the Duterte administration has distanced itself from these operations instead of welcoming and encouraging the naval powers.
In February, the US and UK navies conducted maritime security drills in the South China Sea. This joint exercise followed the declaration of US Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. Philip Davidson that allies and partners would be joining the US Navy’s future operations in the contested waterway.
France also vowed to maintain its FONOPs in the South China Sea. During the 2019 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last June, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly said French ships will continue to sail more than twice a year in the South China Sea.