DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 August) — “Despite everything,” President Rodrigo Duterte “might be the President who will find the solution to the South China Sea dispute,” Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court told a forum on Democracy and Disinformation on Friday as he noted that the South China Sea dispute was entering its third phase with the possible signing during Duterte’s visit to China next week, of the third document in relation to the November 2018 Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas development.
Duterte will be in China from August 28 to September 1, his fifth visit, and will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the 29th.
Carpio said he was asked in November if we were on the third phase already with the signing of the MOU but he replied, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer.”
“But we now have two documents, two swallows and if there is an exchange of things, three, so we are in the summer already. So I’m very hopeful that there will be another document” when the President visits China, he told an audience of students, teachers, leaders of non-governmental organizations, who laughed when Carpio said, “Well, the President of course does not like me,” but added, “despite everything, he might be the President who will find the solution to the South China Sea dispute.”
Duterte has been at loggerheads with Carpio over the handling of the West Philippine Sea issue. In June, he called Carpio “so stupid,” for his comments in the aftermath of the ramming of an anchored Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese fishing vessel in Recto Reed, which is part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Carpio, who has done extensive research and has written a book on the issue — “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Ea,” did not dignify Duterte’s comment with a reply
Carpio was the keynote speaker during the ‘Civil Society Conversations on Democracy and Disinformation’ late Friday afternoon at the Ateneo de Davao University.
He noted that some people are saying the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines against China in 2016 was a Pyrrhic victory “but we have gone so far already and the greatest advance was just last November” when the Chinese President came to the Philippines and the Foreign Ministers of both countries signed a MOU on cooperation on resources in the West Philippine Sea.
60 – 40 sharing
Carpio said that in that MOU, “China agreed to invest in a Philippine service contractor or to be a sub-contractor of a Philippine service contractor and get 40% of the revenue, we get the 60 percent. In other words, China will become a sub-contractor of our contractor and the service contractor is for energy. In the contract, it says ‘Whereas Philippines has sovereign rights over resources.’ That’s in every service contract that we issue. The service contractor acknowledges that we own the resources. China now will fall in line. So that is an implied admission.”
“This is good for us,” he said.
The second document, according to Carpio was the Terms of Reference (TOR) signed three weeks ago between Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin and his counterpart, to implement the MOU.
“So we have now two documents and I think the President will go to Beijing and there could be an exchange of list of names (on) who will be members of the Steering Committee and Working Committee,” Carpio said.
He described the dispute as having three phases: the first phase when China said ‘we own everything’; the second, after the arbitral ruling came out when China said ‘meet us halfway’ and the third, “where China will say ‘we agree that you have sovereign rights but give us half of the resources,’ and the MOU and the TOR apply that,” he said.
He explained that Shell is getting at least 40% for the Malampaya project so “we are not giving away anything if somebody will develop that gas for us.”
Shell or Exxon “will also ask for at least 40% “so we don’t lose anything if we give it to China, but we have peace, and China will now recognize our sovereign rights. And I think that is the third phase where everybody will be happy.”
‘Disinformation of the millennium’
At the inauguration of a solar power project in Romblon on August 21, Duterte declared he would invoke in his meeting with the Chinese President, the arbitral ruling, referring to the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague in favor of the Philippines against China on the maritime dispute.
In his presentation titled “Disinformation on the South China Sea: Fake History, Fake Claims,” Carpio described China’s claim as “the grandest disinformation a country has launched,” the “fake news of the century,” “gigantic fraud on the human race” and “disinformation of the millennium” and showed the maps and documents to support his claims.
Asked by a student “what are we trying to ask from China,” Carpio replied that the Philippines is asking China to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which China has signed and ratified, that every state has 200 nautical mile EEZ.
“China, however, invented the nine-dash line that encroaches on 80% of our EEZ that’s why we went to the Hague to declare the nine-dash line as illegal and the Hague tribunal declared it illegal. So we just want China to honor its commitment and to respect our EEZ in the same that way we respect their EEZ,” Carpio said.
Duterte on August 21 reiterated his vow to invoke the arbitral ruling before his term ends. He has completed half of his six-year term.
In his visit to China next week, Duterte said he will ask them “as what you said and what we have agreed upon, we talk to resolve this problem peacefully. Now, how, tell me, how do we start to solve the problem peacefully? There has got to be something. You just cannot talk air. At sabi nila hindi pag-usapan. Sabi ko, no. If I’m not allowed as a President of a sovereign nation to talk whatever I want to talk about, then let us not rather talk altogether… So whether you like it or not, will it make you happy or not, angry or otherwise, I’m sorry. But we have to talk (about) the arbitral ruling then what we get if there is a start in the exploration and in the extraction of whatever worth there is in the bowels of the earth.”
“The proposal of 60 – 40 (sharing) in our favor would be a good start. I hope that it would graduate into something like towards how do we solve the arbitral ruling peacefully,” the President said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / Mindanews)