Acting CJ Carpio: 80 percent of PH exclusive economic zone at risk

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 14) — About 80 percent of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is at risk given China's occupation of nearby Woody Island, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio warned Thursday.

"We are not claiming Woody Island or the Paracels but they will use Woody Island to enforce the nine-dash line, and that means we will lose 80 percent of our [EEZ]," Carpio told CNN Philippines' The Source. "That's why we have to protest."

Woody Island is another contested territory in the Paracel Island Chain in the South China Sea. It is claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, but has been under China's control for over 40 years.

Carpio, along with Vice President Leni Robredo, previously urged the government to protest the landing of nuclear-capable bombers on the island.

Carpio argues its proximity to the Philippines puts other islands and most of the Philippines' EEZ within reach. He noted the EEZ is even larger than the archipelago's total land area.

"You can just imagine the value of the resources in that area. You have oil, fish, gas, and other mineral resources," said Carpio.

Both Carpio and Robredo urged the Philippines to turn to other countries for support. The Vice President on Monday noted that United States President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a joint statement saying that diplomatic efforts should lead to demilitarization.

"Shouldn't be this the time for us to peacefully protest any effort to limit or control international waters?" said Robredo. "Many countries would be supportive of such a move."

Carpio also said that the Philippines put pressure on China by working with allies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and United Nations. He added the Philippines could even sponsor a resolution requiring China to comply with the 2016 arbitral ruling.

However, the Philippines has inked billions in loans and investments with China -- which Carpio noted could be the reason for not filing a resolution.

"24 billion (dollars) in loans from China is a pittance compared to the value of the resources in the West Philippine Sea," he added. "There's no comparison at all."

Other forms of recourse

Other measures that Carpio urged the Philippines to file tribunal cases against China's destruction of coral reefs and the taking of catch from Filipino fishermen, a United Nations resolution, and an objection at the International Seabed Authority.

Carpio maintained that the Philippines should "demand damages" for destroying corals in the area in order to harvest giant clams.

The justice also previously urged the country to file a case after Chinese Coast Guard men took local fishermen's catch. While the government refused to call the incident harassment, Carpio said it was both harassment and theft.

However, Malacañang has maintained that a new case would come at a cost and "reverse our diplomatic gains."

Carpio also suggested that the Philippines file an objection with the International Seabed Authority, an autonomous international organization with jurisdiction over activities on the seabed, ocean floor, and subsoil. The authority is established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

He noted the authority has previously issued permits for China to mine deep seabeds. He said the Philippines could argue that China cannot benefit from one UNCLOS-established institution but defy another.

"Because China is not complying with the ruling of the tribunal, a creation of UNCLOS, then the International Seabed Authority should not give benefits to China," said Carpio.

"UNCLOS is a package deal. If you ratify it... you cannot cherry pick," he added.