Philippines’ top judge says Beijing’s South China Sea claims pose ‘gravest threat to nation since World War II’


MANILA – China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, in defiance of a 2016 international arbitration ruling, is the “gravest external threat since World War II” to the Philippines, the acting head of the nation’s Supreme Court has said.

At a forum in Manila on Saturday, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio encouraged Filipinos to ask the entire world to help convince the Chinese to abandon the belief China has a historic claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

“In China today, all the generals, admirals, professors, bureaucrats, diplomats, businessmen, they all grew up being taught from Grade One to college that they own the South China Sea since 2,000 years ago. It is in their DNA. They really believe it, honestly, sincerely. But it’s totally false,” Carpio said in a lecture entitled “Defending Philippine Sovereign Rights in the West Philippine Sea.”

“That’s why today, the Chinese government will not comply with the ruling of the tribunal because, if it does, then that delegitimizes them in the eyes of the Chinese people,” he added.

Citing results of extensive research on the issue, including material submitted to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Carpio called the Chinese government’s narrative about its historic claims in the South China Sea the “false history,” “fake news” and “disinformation” of the century.

According to Carpio, historical maps and documents from China showed it only started to expand its territorial claim beyond Hainan in 1932, when it protested French occupation of the Paracels.

And it was only in 1947 that China started to claim the Spratlys. A year earlier China occupied Itu Aba, the largest island in the Spratly archipelago.

The Philippines, on the other hand, included Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys in its territory, based on a 1734 map, Carpio said.

But he noted “people in the West (have) started to believe” Beijing’s claims “because China is an old civilization.”

“I call this the gravest external threat to the Philippines since World War II because we will lose an area larger than the combined, total land area of the Philippines. … We are going to lose a huge maritime space. We lose all the fish, oil, gas and mineral resources here.”