Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on Sunday backed the joint declaration forged by President Rodrigo Duterte with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supporting freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
Carpio, a staunch advocate of Philippine sovereign claim over disputed waters and territories in the South China Sea, particularly the West Philippines Sea, said the agreement signed by the two leaders is consistent with the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that the Philippines has a full 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
“The statement of President Duterte upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea should be the main thrust of our foreign policy in the South China Sea,” Carpio stressed.
“When states exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, they assert that there are high seas in the center of the South China Sea, and exclusive economic zones around such high seas. The resources in the exclusive economic zone belong exclusively to the adjacent coastal state,” he said.
With the joint accord between Philippines and Japan, Carpio said it is now clear that the Duterte administration has finally asserted its rights over West Philippine Sea.
“Since the Philippines is the adjacent coastal state in the West Philippine Sea, the resources in this exclusive economic zone logically belong exclusively to the Philippines,” he added.
Carpio urged the government to also call on other states to also assert freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte and Abe signed the declaration during a bilateral meeting at the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore.