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Justice Carpio on the West Philippine Sea Dispute in UPV Forum


Photos courtesy of Ramon Ramirez

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio gave a lecture on the West Philippine Sea Dispute on April 22, 2016 at the UP Visayas Auditorium, Iloilo City.

Attended by members of the UP Alumni community, lawyers and students of UPV and other universities, Carpio gave a brief on the law of the sea that and the disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea.

According to Carpio, the country’s sovereign territory covers 12 nautical miles from our territorial sea baseline and 200 nautical miles from our sovereign territory is the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

 In his lecture, he presented various reclamations done by China on the Philippine claimed reefs. These claims of ownership were based on China’s nine-dashed lines map, which covers 85.7 percent of the entire South China Sea. He said that China has alarmingly built artificial islands in the following Philippine claimed Reefs: Kagitingan, Mabini, Chigun, Burgos, Calderon, Zamora, Subi and Panganiban.

He also presented some facts and discussed their implications on the claims of the Philippines. These are as follows:

1) The Fiery Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef is just outside of the Philippines EEZ but within its continental shelf. China built an airbase with a seaport which was completed in June 2015. The airbase has a 3,000-m runway of 274-hectare area on Fiery Cross Reef. This artificial island will be larger than the combined area of the 20 largest islands in the Spratlys. China held a test flight on the reef’s runway on January 6, 2016.

2) The Johnson South (Mabini) Reef is within the Philippine EEZ. As of November 2015, China has created an artificial island of the 10.9 hectares in the said reef.

3) Mc Kennan (Chigun) Reef is a low tide elevation (LTE) within the Philippine EEZ. It is within the 12 nautical miles (NM) of Sin Cove island. As of November 2015, China has created an artificial island of 7.2 hectares on the reef.

4) The Gaven (Burgos) Reef is outside of the Philippine EEZ but within its continental shelf. It is an LTE within 12 NM of Namyit Island as of November 2015. China has created an artificial island of 13 hectares in Gaven Reef.

5) The Cuarterion (Calderon) Reef is outside the Philippine EEZ but within its continental shelf. It is a tiny rock above south. As of November 2015, China has added 24.6 hectares in the reef and is installing a powerful radar facility that can monitor aircraft flying anywhere in Palawan.

6) The Subi (Zamora) Reef is an LTE outside of Philippine EEZ but within its continental shelf. Subi Reef is just 12 NM territorial seas of the 36 hectares. Subi Reef is 231 NM from Palawan and 502 NM from Hainan. Subi Reef now has 3 kilometer runway and a lighthouse.

7) The Mischief (Panganiban) Reef is a circular atoll with a diameter of 7.11 kilometer and has a lagoon that has an area of 3 600 ha. As of November 2015, China has created an artificial island of 590 hectares. Mischief Reef is 125 NM from Palawan and 596 NM from Hainan.

8) The Pag-asa (Thitu) Island is the largest island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys.

Carpio also explained that an LTE in the high seas cannot be used as a military facility since UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) mandates that “the high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes. As of December 23, 2015, China has created an artificial island of 500 hectares in the Subi Reef.

He also agreed with Dr. John McManus, a renowned Marine biologist who studied the marine life in the Spratlys, that China’s island building is the “most rapid permanent loss of coral reef in human history. “ He added, “Clearly, China’s island - building in the EEZ and ECS of the Philippines violate the UNCLOS and are thus illegal under international law.”

The lecture was sponsored by the UPAA Iloilo Chapter, UPV Office of Alumni Relations, UP Hamili Brotherhood - Hamilia Sisterhood, and University of San Agustin College of Law.

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