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Justice Carpio’s wisdom

So far, the strongest and most credible voice to emerge from the mishmash of arguments on issues affecting our national territory is that of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who urged Malacanang to make Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off limits to any Chinese development, whether for weather monitoring or any other alibi.

The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday assured that the Philippines is keeping a close watch on Panatag or Scarborough Shoal on the West Philippine Sea following reports that China is preparing to build a monitoring station there.

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There should be no problem for the Philippines over Benham Rise to the east of Luzon. There we are the sole claimant and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf ruled in 2012 that Benham Rise is part of the Extended Continental Shelf of the Philippines. It is not Philippine territory, we have no ”sovereignty” over it, but we have “sovereign rights” – exclusive rights to explore and exploit the oil, gas, and other mineral resources in that undersea plateau as big as the island of Luzon.

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China will begin preparatory work this year for an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in the South China Sea, an official said, as two US senators introduced a bill to impose sanctions on its activities in the disputed waterway.

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China plans to build an environmental monitoring station on a South China Sea shoal at the heart of a territorial dispute with the Philippines, potentially raising new concerns over Beijing’s actions to assert its claims in the strategically crucial waterbody.

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BENHAM Rise has been in the news lately. This is an undersea region as big as Luzon 250 kilometers east of Isabela 5,000 meters above the sea floor, and 3,000 meters below sea level. It is a seismically active region which, scientists believe, affected the Philippine Fault System to the west in 1990, causing the disastrous earthquake that hit Baguio City in that year.

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