Carpio to Duterte: Not 'thoughtless, senseless' to reserve PH EEZ for Filipinos

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday refuted President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial statement that the constitutional provision reserving the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to the exclusive use of Filipinos was "for the thoughtless and the senseless."

"This exclusivity is not a 'thoughtless and senseless' provision in our Constitution as President Rodrigo Duterte has unfortunately characterized," Carpio said in a speech before graduating students of the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. He urged students to value personal integrity but stressed that as Filipinos, protecting the country's territorial integrity is as important.

Carpio pointed out that Article 12, Section 7 of the Constitution states, "The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens."

Last Thursday, Duterte commented about that particular provision, which has been cited by experts and government officials, including Carpio, in criticizing his move to allow Chinese fishermen in the Philippines' EEZ. He said: "That is a provision for the thoughtless and the senseless. The protection about economic rights, about the economic zone, resources? I am protecting the country and 110 Filipinos."

Carpio on Saturday said the framers of the 1987 Constitution followed the exclusivity provision from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international treaty signed by 167 states including the Philippines and China.

"Even the small minority of states that have not ratified UNCLOS, like the United States of America, have adopted this exclusivity. International tribunals have declared this exclusivity as part of customary international law – which means it is the governing law for all states of the world," he said.

Carpio argued, "China itself reserves all the natural resources in its own EEZ exclusively to Chinese citizens. Why will we not accept and protect this exclusivity when the rest of the world is accepting and protecting this exclusivity?"

Carpio was part of the Philippine delegation to the The Hague that argued for and won the country's case against China in July 2016. This was filed after the Philippines lost control over Scarborough Shoal, located around 120 nautical miles off Zambales, to a controversial standoff with China in 2012. The arbitration ruling said China violated its duty to respect the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough. It recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights to some areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, invalidating China's sweeping claim to almost the entire global waterway. Beijing rejects the Philippines' landmark victory.

The Duterte government has repeatedly said enforcing the arbitral ruling could result in a war with China, whose friendship it has nurtured. Carpio questioned why the government keeps on saying this, when the Constitution and international law are clear that "war is not an option and has never been an option."

"It is clear that the specter of war is being raised only to intimidate the Filipino people into submitting to China’s encroachment of our EEZ," Carpio said.

"The correct recourse is to protect our territorial integrity through the rule of law," he stressed. "We must use the rule of law wisely and creatively, exploring and pushing the limits of international law to maintain our territorial integrity."

Carpio has repeatedly criticized the administration's soft stance on the South China Sea dispute, prompting Duterte to hit back. The President recently called Carpio "stupid" for calling out Chinese fishing in the Philippines' EEZ.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.