Make country’s claim over West Philippine Sea an elections issue in 2022 —Carpio

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Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday called on the Filipino people to make the country’s claim in the West Philippine Sea an important factor in choosing the next set of government officials to be elected in the 2022 national polls.

“We must make it an election issue this 2022. We must vote for a government that will assert and preserve our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said during a virtual forum.

Carpio said that the Philippine government has yet to file for an extended continental shelf claim in a part of Luzon facing the South China Sea but such cannot be done because of the administration’s current relations with the Asian powerhouse.

Carpio said the COVID-19 pandemic has just proved that China will not relent on its mission to seize marine territories which started in 1946.

“China will always take advantage of a crisis, even this pandemic crisis. While we are busy fighting COVID-19, China is furthering poaching on our waters and territories in the West Philippine Sea. That just goes to show that China has a long-term plan and will continue to implement this plan as time passes,” Carpio said.

“China wants to make its nine-dash line its national boundary. We will lose a maritime area larger than our total land area if China succeeds in making the nine-dash line as China’s national boundary,” he added.

He said the Philippines must step up to have its long-term plan in asserting the international tribunal’s ruling which invalidated China’s massive claims in the countries’ waters.

“This is a creeping expansion and they have a plan. We don’t have a long-term plan to counter China. That is what’s missing in our strategy,” he said.

Aside from forming a coalition with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia which could do joint naval patrols at exclusive economic zones to deter China’s aggressive behavior, education will play an important part.

“Future generations of Filipinos must continue the struggle to defend the West Philippine Sea. But will they? It depends on us. If the present generation, we, educate our youth that the sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea belong to the Filipino people, then they will continue the struggle,” Carpio said.

“I call this an inter-generational struggle. This will not be solved in our generation. This will be solved probably in succeeding generations of Filipinos,” he added.

A good database of all arguments—historical, legal, and environmental research—must be compiled for easy access, Carpio said.

The Philippines and China are both claimants of the disputed islands.

The Duterte administration has chosen to strengthen the country’s economic ties with China and not to impose the arbitral ruling in 2016 which invalidated the latter’s massive claims in the disputed waters./Stacy Ang

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