SUPREME Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio yesterday pushed for the declaration by claimant countries of the Spratly group of islands as a marine protected area for 100 years to preserve its fragile marine ecosystem and allow fish stocks and other marine resources to replenish.

Carpio made the appeal during the Forum on the Environmental Standpoint in the West Philippine Sea dispute organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute at the De La Salle University where he was one of the guest speakers.

He said declaring the area as a marine protected sanctuary would also help ease the tension brought by the conflicting claims of countries including the Philippines.

“As a win-win solution to the territorial dispute in the Spratlys, all claimant states should suspend for 100 years their territorial claims and declare all the low-tide and high-tide features in the Spratlys, and an area of three nautical miles around each feature, an international marine peace park for the benefit of all coastal states in the South China Sea,” Carpio told the gathering.

Carpio said this will also ensures that the Spratlys will remain the South China Sea’s nursery where fish spawn and the fish eggs and larvae are carried by currents to the coasts of China, Vietnam, Luzon, Palawan, Malaysia, Brunei, Natuna Islands, as well as the Sulu seas.

He explained that claimant states will hold on to whatever islands or structures they now possess with only coast guard personnel and vessels stationed in the Spratlys.

“The islands and or structures can only be used for marine scientific research and eco-tourism. There is a precedent to this. The 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan created the Red Sea Marine Peace Park in the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea,” he said.

He said marine biologists Dr. John W. McManus, Kwang-Tsao Shao and Szu-Yin Lin has the same proposal in 2010.

Carpio said China cannot ignore such a move without risking isolation and further condemnation by the international community.

He said China violated its obligation under UNCLOS to “protect and preserve the marine environment” when it dredged and built islands on seven reefs and failed to prevent its fishermen from harvesting endangered species like sea turtles, corals and giant clams in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.