Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court gave a lecture on UNCLOS and the South China Sea at the Foreign Service Institute last 4 December 2014. The lecture, attended by officers and staff of the Department, is part of the Mabini Dialogue Series of the Foreign Service Institute and was organized in partnership with the DFA Office of Legal Affairs and FSO Cadetship Course Batch XXI “Salinlahi.”
Justice Carpio discussed the scope, nature, and possible outcomes of the UNCLOS arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China. He reiterated that the arbitration case pertains only to the maritime entitlements of features in the South China Sea, which is under the jurisdiction of UNCLOS, and it is without reference to territorial claims.
The lecture evaluated the merits of China’s nine-dashed line using China’s constitution and historical records from both Chinese and non-Chinese sources. These records show that contrary to China’s claims in the South China Sea, Hainan Island is China’s southernmost territory and not James Shoal.
On the other hand, historical maps of the Philippines from 1636 to 1933 show that Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines. According to Justice Carpio, Spain ceded the outlying features from the Treaty of Paris to the United States under the 1900 Treaty of Washington which includes the Scarborough Shoal. In addition, the Philippines used Scarborough Shoal as an impact range, an evidence of Philippine sovereignty over the feature.
Justice Carpio stressed that the “donut hole” in the middle of the South China Sea are high seas that belong to all mankind and should not be subject for appropriation by any state. He cautioned that the relevance of UNCLOS would be undermined if it is not applied in the South China Sea. Justice Carpio also reiterated the importance of having a credible defense force aside from pursuing the legal approach in order to preserve the security in the West Philippine Sea for the next generation of Filipinos.