Carpio to Duterte gov't: File new case vs China

MANILA, Philippines – Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said on Friday, June 8, that the Philippines can file another case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague for the China Coast Guard's harassment of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal off Zambales province.

Carpio made the statement in response to reports that the China Coast Guard continues to block Filipino fishermen from the waters of Scarborough Shoal, including its lagoon – a violation, he said, of the 2016 ruling of the international arbitral court in favor of the Philippines.

“The arbitral ruling stated that we have a right to fish in the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal. That means our fishermen have the right to fish in the lagoon of Scarborough inside. But Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been preventing them from fishing inside in the lagoon. So that’s already a violation of arbitral ruling,” said Carpio.

He also noted the video showing Chinese coast guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal. 

“That’s not supposed to be done,” Carpio said.

He said one form of action is by filing a diplomatic protest over the incidents, but a more “forceful” option, he added, was to bring China to court, again.

“So we should protest this, but if you want to be forceful about it, we can bring another case against China for not complying with the ruling. We can bring another case before the arbitral tribunal that China has been violating the ruling, and demand damages,” Carpio said.

“We can demand damages for economic loss that our fishermen suffer. That’s the course of action that we should take if we want to protect the interest of our fishermen,” he added.

The incident took place as the Philippine military tried to persuade fishermenwho used to frequent the shoal, to return to the rich fishing area. 

China has practically occupied Panatag since 2012, following a tense standoff between the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard. For several years, China blocked Filipino fishermen access to the shoal, but this  supposedly changed due to Beijing's improved relations with the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. Recent incidents, however, indicated otherwise.

The Duterte administration has refused to take up with Beijing the 2016 arbitration victory over China, saying the Philippines cannot afford to antagonize the Asian giant. This is contrary to the recomendation of experts, among them Carpio, that the Philippines should rally the world around the Hague ruling.