5 ways Duterte can defend Scarborough without going to war
MANILA, Philippines – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the legal minds who helped prepare the country's successful arbitration case against China, reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that it is his constitutional duty to protect Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal as part of Philippine national territory.
Last week, Chinese media reported on the military superpower's supposed plans to start construction on the rocky sandbar off the coast of Zambales province.
Duterte said the Philippines cannot stop China from building on Scarborough, adding that he cannot let soldiers die in a war that the country is certain to lose.
Carpio enumerated 5 ways the President can deter China's activities in the West Philippine Sea without going to war.
One of them is for Duterte to be more careful with his pronouncements, because careless statements could encourage the military superpower to proceed with its plans to build on Scarborough shoal.
The senior justice also proposed to continue joint patrols between the Philippine and US militaries and to ask the country's treaty ally to categorically declare that it will defend Scarborough shoal from invasion. Carpio said these twin moves will deter China's aggressiveness.
"The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which are expressly tasked by the Constitution to defend the national territory. Under RA No. 9522, Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine national territory," Carpio said in a statement on Monday, March 20.
Here are the 5 ways Duterte can defend Scarborough Shoal, according to Carpio.
1. File a strong formal protest against China's building activity. This is the least that the President can do. This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels.
2. Send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal. If the Chinese attack Philippine navy vessels, then the President can invoke the Phil-US Mutual defense Treaty, which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea.
3. Ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Phil-US Mutual Defense Treaty since the shoal has been part of Philippine territory even during the American colonial period. The US has declared the Senkakus as part of Japanese territory for purposes of the US-Japan mutual defense treaty.
4. Accept the standing US offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, which includes Scarborough Shoal. This will demonstrate joint Philippine and US determination to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.
5. Avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.
Don't encourage China
"Any statement that the Philippines cannot stop China from building on Scarborough Shoal actually encourages China to build on Scarborough Shoal," Carpio said in a statement on Monday, March 20.
Carpio agreed that the country is no match to China's military might, but he stressed this is not sufficient reason to abandon the country's territory.
Carpio said the Philippines has long established that Scarborough is a part of the country's territory, citing correspondences between the Philippines and the US as far back as 1938 – during the Commonwealth period – regarding ownership of the rocky sandbar.
Scarborough Shoal is also located inside the country's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, based on the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
But China claimed it to be a part of its territory and has practically occupied the shoal since a 2012 standoff between the Chinese Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.
The Philippines brought China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and succeeded in getting China's 9-dash-line claim over the South China Sea dismissed.
The court did not decide which country owns Scarborough Shoal, however, because it said it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the issue. – Rappler.com