SC's Carpio: Philippines can't have VFA with China
MANILA, Philippines – "It is common sense."
Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio dismissed proposals for the Philippines to have a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with China and allow Chinese troops to hold military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"We cannot have a VFA with them when they are claiming our territory," Carpio told reporters on Wednesday, May 10, on the sidelines of a maritime security symposium hosted by the Philippine Navy.
"It's difficult to have a VFA with a country claiming your territory and maritime zones. How can you have naval exercises in the West Philippine Sea if you are doing it with a country that's claiming the West Philippine Sea? For me, it is common sense," Carpio said.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently said he is open to joint exercises between the Philippines and China "here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea."
Duterte made the statement as Chinese warships visited his hometown Davao City on May 1, the first time in 7 years that Chinese vessels visited the Philippines.
Defense and military officials said a VFA – a treaty that should be initiated by Malacañang but ratified by the Senate – is necessary to allow these activities.
The Philippines has a VFA with the United States and Australia, allowing joint exercises with these two countries. The Balikatan, the biggest military exercises with the US, is ongoing in various parts of the Philippines.
Carpio was among the legal luminaries who led the Philippine case against China that was filed by the previous Aquino administration. The Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China's 9-dash line claim over the disputed waters, but China refuses to recognize the ruling.
Unlike the previous administration, Duterte has opted for warm ties with China, while shelving the arbitral ruling.
Carpio supports engagements with China, particularly on trade. But he said having a VFA with China is another matter.
"Our relationship with any country should not be limited to a single issue. We have a dispute with China but we can go on trading with China. Normal relations can continue. But, of course, there are other matters we cannot do. We cannot have our VFA with them when they are claiming our territory," he said. – Rappler.com