SC Justice: Invoke defense treaty with US if China attacks Navy in Scarborough

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday made recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte on how to respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. In a statement, Carpio said the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which is tasked by the Constitution to defend the country’s territory.

He pointed out that under Republic Act 9522 or the Philippines’ Baseline Law, Scarborough Shoal is part of the Philippine territory.

Carpio said since the Philippines is no match to China militarily, the President can fulfill his constitutional duty by doing any, some or all of the following:

1. File a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity. This is the least that the President should 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 forces attack Philippine navy vessels, then the President can invoke the Philippines-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 Philippines-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.

“This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their natural patrimony in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said.

In 2012, China seized Panatag Shoal or the Scarborough Shoal after a standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels. China is denying Filipino fishermen access to its rich fishing stock.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries.