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SC Justice Carpio fears losing Panatag if Duterte concedes to China

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Saturday, October 15, said the Philippines can lose the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) if President Rodrigo Duterte concedes sovereignty over it in exchange for China's incentives.

"If Duterte concedes sovereignty, it is a culpable violation of the Constitution, a ground for impeachment," Carpio said.

"But the more important repercussion is, once Duterte concedes sovereignty, we can never recover it because China will never give it back," he added.

This is because even if the Philippine Supreme Court voids a possible concession by Duterte, "China will not be bound by the ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court."

He said that "only an international court can void the concession," provided that China "voluntarily submits" to the court’s jurisdiction. "And China will never submit to the jurisdiction of an international court on sovereignty issues," he added.

Carpio also explained he is "worried" that in exchange for "allowing Filipino fishermen to fish on Scarborough Shoal and for all the infrastructure loans and grants from the Chinese", Duterte might "recognize China's sovereignty over the shoal."

Sovereignty over Panatag

Duterte is making a state visit to China from October 18 to 21.

The President plans to focus on trade and investments, as both Manila and Beijing will downplay the Philippines' historic legal victory against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Carpio said Duterte "thinks the Philippines has no sovereignty" over Panatag Shoal because the ruling "is silent on who has sovereignty over the shoal."

What the tribunal said is that both Filipino and Chinese fishermen both have "traditional fishing rights" within the 12-nautical mile territorial sea of Panatag Shoal. This means the disputed area is a traditional fishing ground.

Carpio pointed out that the Philippines "never raised the sovereignty issue" because the tribunal "has no jurisdiction over sovereignty issues, only maritime issues."

"The tribunal could not have ruled on the sovereignty issue," the Supreme Court justice said.

Carpio said that based on Republic Act 9522 (also known as the Baselines Law), the Philippines "exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction" over Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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