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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Jardeleza: China should pay for damages to WPS coral reefs

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The Philippines must file a second arbitral case against China in the West Philippine Sea, specifically for destruction of the environment in seven reefs, former Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza asserted.

“Among the main conclusions of the arbitral tribunal award of July 2016 was that China caused, through its land reclamation and construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures, severe, irreparable harm to the coral reef system at Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Firefly Cross Reef, Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef,” he addressed in a media forum at Manila Prince Hotel.

“There is nothing therefore for us to prove insofar as the arbitral court is concerned because we have shown that China has caused irreparable harm to the coral reef system in seven reefs and destroyed their natural condition… We have different views of how much the damage is. Ang importante is we should collate all of these,” Jardeleza further explained.

According to the former Solicitor General, for 17 years before the 2016 arbitral award, the Philippines relied on diplomatic protests.

He now insists that the government should file another case to address damages caused by China, pointing out that the initial case did not include claims for damages, particularly environmental damages.

The first arbitral case served as a declaratory relief of the Philippines’ rights over its maritime territory.

Reflecting on the process of the initial case, Jardeleza recalled that before filing, the chances of the Philippines receiving jurisdiction were estimated at 50/50.

However, once jurisdiction is established, the likelihood of success will increase to 80%, which proved to be what happened.

“We must remember that when we filed the case in 2013 the Philippines was practically on its own. It was difficult but we persevered and rightfully won,” Jardeleza said.

“Today, through this administration’s efforts, we have gained the support of key state actors and strengthened our alliances. We are in a far better position than we were at in 2013,” he added.

Given the success of the 2016 arbitral award affirming the Philippines’ jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea and the substantial evidence detailing China’s damages, Jardeleza stated it is high time to file another case addressing these damages.

“It is my hope that the President, as the architect of the country’s foreign policy, makes the decision to file the new arbitration case on or before his state of the nation address (SONA),” he said.

Jardeleza pointed the lessons from the mistakes of 2012 when the country “unilaterally withdrew its vessels from Scarborough Shoal during the standoff with China.”

He declared that the Philippines must continue to protect and preserve the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal and maintain the Coast Guard presence at Escoda Shoal.
“We must ensure that our troops on the BRP Sierra Madre are well-provisioned and replaced regularly, despite the harassment by Chinese forces. We should not allow China’s ‘monster ship’ to intimidate us into leaving Escoda Shoal,” he concluded.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza, who served as Solicitor General under former President Benigno Aquino III, played a pivotal role as the principal agent in the landmark arbitration case against China at The Hague, which the Philippines won in 2016.

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