Malacañang on Thursday, September 26, dismissed Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s warning that China would reclaim Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, maintaining that President Rodrigo Duterte wouldn’t permit any assault on Philippine sovereignty.
According to Carpio, China would push for the signing of a code of conduct for South China Sea claimants after reclaiming the shoal because such code would stop the building of anything in the area, thereby legitimizing whatever they built there.
He added that the Chinese would be emboldened to take on the reclamation due to Duterte’s admission that he could not stop them from building structures in the shoal.
Panelo, for his part, said Carpio is very fond of engaging in speculations.
He also stressed the administration would continue opposing any intrusion into the country’s sovereign affairs.
“Definitely, just like what the president said, I will not allow during my incumbency any assault on our sovereignty. That arbitral ruling is final, binding and not subject to appeal. That’s what he said,” Panelo said.
“Anything that will go against the arbitral ruling would be of course objectionable for us, I think that’s a given. Because we are against any intrusion into the sovereign affairs of the land,” he added.
In 2016, a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal based in Hague voided China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea as well as upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. The tribunal also ruled that while Panatag Shoal is within the Philippine EEZ, Filipino and Chinese fishermen from their respective countries had traditional fishing rights in the area.
When asked if the Philippines can stop China from proceeding with a reclamation, Panelo responded: “We can always try.”
“We will — the usual, we have to file a diplomatic protest,” he added.