MANILA, Jun 30, 2019, PhilStar. Staunch maritime rights advocate Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said he is more interested in protecting the country’s marine resources than impeaching President Duterte, reported the Philippine Star.
“I’m not interested in impeachment, I want protection. Impeachment is not the issue, I’m more on the preventive side; I don’t want ours to be taken by other countries. We want to reserve it for the fishermen,” Carpio said on the sidelines of a forum in Taguig City yesterday.
Carpio made the statement amid discussions that Duterte has committed an impeachable offense in allowing China to share the country’s marine resources in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Duterte described the constitutional provision mandating the protection of marine resources in the EEZ as “thoughtless and useless.”
He even called Carpio “buang” (Visayan word for crazy) and “stupid” after the senior magistrate said the Chief Executive’s decision to allow Chinese fishermen in the Philippines’ EEZ is unconstitutional.
Carpio has opted not to respond to Duterte’s tirades against him though he said the highest official of the land should be the number one defender of the Constitution.
Carpio stressed he does not want to meddle in the political side of the issues. He said it is up to Congress to decide whether Duterte committed an impeachable offense.
In his speech during the Recognition Day of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Carpio said the Filipino people have the constitutional and civic duty to protect the territorial integrity of the EEZ.
He told the students that aside from protecting their personal integrity that would define them as a person, there is another kind of integrity that is of utmost concern to all Filipinos – territorial integrity.
He added that personal integrity and territorial integrity should be maintained and protected because both are priceless.
Territorial integrity “is an integrity that you must also protect and safeguard with your own life, if necessary,” Carpio said.
The senior magistrate also emphasized the government should adhere to the Constitution and to the provisions of the EEZ, which concept was adopted from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“The economic exploitation of the zone belongs exclusively to the coastal state – it’s the Philippines. Even China looks at it that way. In their EEZ, no other country can fish and that’s the rule in the world,” he said.
Carpio pointed out the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague had already affirmed with finality the Philippines’ EEZ area in the South China Sea, which is actually larger than the total land area of all the Philippine islands put together.
And all the fish, oil, gas and other mineral resources in the EEZ belong exclusively to the Filipino people, he said.
Carpio said the provision in the Constitution that mandates the President to protect the country’s marine wealth in archipelagic waters, territorial sea and EEZ, and to reserve it for the use and enjoyment of the Filipino people, has a noble purpose.
“This exclusivity is not a ‘thoughtless and senseless’ provision in our Constitution, as President Duterte has unfortunately characterized,” Carpio said in his speech at UP.
The UNCLOS has been ratified by 167 states, including China, representing an overwhelming number of members of the United Nations, accounting for at least nine-tenths of the world’s population, he said.
Even China reserves all the natural resources in its own EEZ exclusively to Chinese citizens, so why not the Philippines, Carpio asked.
Carpio suggested coastal states like the Philippines, Malaysia, China and Brunei should come together and form a commission that will manage the marine environment in the South China Sea.
He noted reports of degradation of coral reefs by Chinese fishermen and the destruction of the marine environment in Beijing’s effort to build artificial islands.
He added the coastal states should declare the whole South China Sea as a “maritime protected area” to ensure that the coral reefs are protected and avoid the possible breaking up of the food chain.
“We have to ask our neighboring countries, including China, if there is a breaking up of (the food) chain, the South China Sea will collapse, that’s why it’s very important to maintain the maritime environment,” Carpio said.
“How do we do that? Ask our neighbors, everybody including China, to declare the Spratlys as ‘maritime protected area’ so that we can preserve the environment,” he added.
With Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe