Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said China’s threat to go to war against the Philippines — if it extracts oil and gas in the Reed Bank, or in any area within Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea — is a gross violation of the United Nations Charter, UNCLOS, and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia to which both countries are parties.
President Duterte revealed Friday night that Chinese President Xi Jinping warned him of going to war if Manila would insist on the arbitration ruling and drill for oil in a disputed part of the South China Sea.
“Sagot sa akin [He answered], ‘Well, we are friends. We do not want to quarrel with you. We would want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war,'” Duterte said.
What can the Philippine government do?
But Carpio suggested the Philippines’ recourse is to bring China’s threat of war to another UNCLOS arbitral tribunal, to secure an order directing China to comply with the ruling of the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal that declared the Reed Bank part of Philippine EEZ.
The Philippines can also ask for damages, Carpio added, for every day of delay that the Philippines is prevented by China from exploiting Philippine EEZ.
Carpio said Manila can also bring Beijing’s threat before the United Nations General Assembly by sponsoring a resolution condemning China’s threat of war against the Philippines and demanding that China comply with the ruling of the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal.
“China has no veto in the General Assembly,” Carpio noted.
What should President Duterte do?
The senior magistrate explained since the country has renounced war as an instrument of national policy, the President has the constitutional duty to use all legal means under international law to protect Philippine EEZ.
“In the face of China’s open threat of war to seize Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, an area larger than the total land area of the Philippines, the President cannot simply do nothing, or worse acquiesce to China’s action, for inaction is the opposite of protecting Philippine EEZ,” Carpio said.
Strengthen alliance with the U.S.
Carpio pointed out China’s blatant threat of war against the Philippines demands that the Philippines strengthens its defenses and alliances.
In particular, he said the Philippines must strengthen its alliance with the United States, the only country with whom the Philippines has a mutual defense treaty.
“The United Nations Charter recognizes the right of states to mutual self-defense against armed aggression. The Philippines can ally with the United States because the United States does not claim the West Philippine Sea or any Philippine territory. The Philippines cannot ally with China because China wants to grab for itself the West Philippine Sea and the Spratlys. As long as China threatens the Philippines with war over the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines can never lower its guard in its dealings with China,” Carpio explained.
Carpio said China’s threat of war against the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea reveals the aggressive design of China against the Philippines.
“No less than Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered the threat personally to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. This extremely troubling development calls for all Filipinos to unite to defend the West Philippine Sea in accordance with the Constitution, international law and UNCLOS,” Carpio added.