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Important factors on West Philippine Sea

Several important factors on the West Philippine Sea and the United Nations tribunal’s ruling in our favor concerning the territorial dispute need to be discussed and explained for the benefit of Filipinos.

First, let’s begin with the difference between the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, as elaborated by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio during a television interview.

Carpio said the West Philippine Sea pertains to the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), extended continental shelf under the jurisdiction of the Philippines and the focus of its dispute with China.

South China Sea should be used when talking about the entire territorial waters argued upon by Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

The UN ruling clarified that there is no basis for China’s historical “nine-dash-line” claim on the waters that encompass the South China Sea, supposedly based on the markers found on an old map. Still, the decision is just a scrap of paper if it remains unrecognized by China.

Carpio believes we should first consult our ASEAN brothers also affected by the nine-dash lines, our friends like the US, Australia, Japan and maybe South Korea and EU countries before sitting down and again holding talks with China over the issue.

The subject of dispute is our EEZ, an area of about 381,000 square kilometers of maritime space, which is bigger than the Philippine land area of 300,000 square kilometers. Included here are all the fish, oil, gas and mineral resources found in that maritime space.

Malampaya, the largest operating gas field that we have, is the source of 40 percent of Luzon’s energy requirement.

Since it will run out of gas in 10 years, we need to develop the Reed Bank just beside Malampaya.

But the Reed Bank has been encroached by nine-dash lines and every survey ship sent in the area gets harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard.

The high seas outside the EEZ belong to mankind and anyone can fish in the area.

China, being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), should follow the ruling issued by the UN tribunal in The Hague. Carpio said that in international law, you don’t expect the losing party to comply immediately, but it will happen in the end.

Will it happen in this lifetime? This we have to wait and see…

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column athttp://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)