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Carpio to Duterte admin: ‘Preserve’ arbitral win vs. China

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday urged the Duterte administration to "preserve" the country's victory in the arbitration case against China on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio, the top legal luminary in the arbitration case, has constantly urged the government to formally lodge a diplomatic protest against China's "increasing militarization" of the vital sea lane.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte, in pursuing friendlier relations with Beijing, has temporarily set aside the ruling to avoid confrontation with the Asian power.

Interviewed at a private event in Makati City, Carpio said while he respects the administration's decision, the government must also make sure that the ruling is preserved.

"If the present administration does not want to act, it is their prerogative. But they would have to preserve the ruling for the next administration to act on it," he said.

He was referring to the 2016 ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidating China's historical claims over resources in areas in the South China Sea within the so-called "nine-dash line."

"Inaction is a waiver"

Still, Carpio reiterated his earlier warning that non-action by the Philippine government against China's activities in the West Philippine Sea could be seen as the country giving up its rights.

"If we don"t file a formal protest it will be deemed that we have acquiesced our rights,” Carpio said. “We should not do any thing to waive it… Inaction is a waiver.”

Carpio also said that filing an official protest would cost nothing to the government, and is the only natural step in light of China’s artificial structures in South China Sea within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

He also said a protest should not affect any of the government’s deals with China, including $24 billion in funding deals with the Philippines. He maintained that any deal with China should not come at the expense of the country’s control over its EEZ.

“If it is a choice, no government can give up our EEZ. We should protect our EEZ because it’s far larger than our total land area,” Carpio said.

Murillo-Velarde map

The acting SC justice was the guest of honor at a private exhibit of the 1734 map by Jesuit priest Fr Pedro Murillo-Velarde attended by descendants of Murillo-Velarde. The map is considered the “mother of all Philippine maps.”

At Carpio’s suggestion, the map was purchased by philantropist Mel Velarde at a Sotheby’s auction from the estate of the Duke of Northumberland for over P12 million in 2014.

The map contained the hotly-contested Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal— then named Bajo de Paragua and Bajo de Masinloc, respectively.

The map was also used as evidence by the Philippines in its official protest to the Tribunal to show that China has no basis in claiming historical control over the South China Sea through its nine-dash line theory.

In his speech, Carpio said ancient maps such as the Murillo-Velarde map are instrumental to exposing what he called "basic historical lies."

"Ancient maps can contain errors, but taken collectively, maps can point to basic historical truths and expose basic historical lies. China’s nine-dash line? That was exposed as a lie," he said. —KBK, GMA News