By Rey Panaligan
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines cannot invoke sovereign rights over the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal since the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) did not settle the dispute with China for lack of jurisdiction.
Thus, Carpio said, the government should push for protocols with China on the Filipinos’ fishing activities in the contested area in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Carpio, a member of the Philippines’ arbitration team in the PCA, said the arbitral ruling clearly stated that Filipinos have the right to fish in the Panatag Shoal together with Chinese fishermen.
“The ruling says that Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino and Chinese fishermen. So both can fish there,” he said.
In line with the PCA ruling, the Philippine government should talk to China and “establish protocols so we can fish in peace,” he said.
“We have to talk to them because we have a traditional fishing right there together with Chinese fishermen,” he added.
But if China refuses to cooperate, Carpio said, “there are other options available for the government to pursue” like going back to the PCA to block China’s application for permit to explore the seabed before the International Seabed Authority.
“The International Seabed Authority can suspend the license of China. There are so many ways of doing it; that is just only one of the ways to put pressure on China if it refuses. We are not totally helpless,” Carpio stressed.
Earlier, Carpio had called on the government to file another case against China with the PCA on the harassment by Chinese coast guards against Filipino fishermen in the Panatag Shoal.
He suggested the government should seek damages from China for “economic loss” on the part of Filipino fishermen.
Records showed that in 2016, the PCA affirmed the Philippines’ submission that the stance of China to drive away Filipino fishermen in the disputed Panatag Shoal was unlawful.
The PCA declared that China’s nine-dash line was contrary to United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS) and has no basis in law.
It also declared the Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal and Reed Bank as “part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines and are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”
At the same time, the PCA’s ruling held that China violated its obligations under UNCLOS to protect and preserve maritime environment when it built artificial islands in Mischief Reef without the necessary permission from the Philippines government.