China to soon build air, naval bases in Scarborough Shoal, Carpio warns

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 9) — Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday warned China may "very soon put up" air and naval bases on Scarborough Shoal.

He said this is the next step in the East Asian giant's reported plan for an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the contested South China Sea.

"When China hinted it will establish an ADIZ over South China Sea, it only meant one thing: China will very soon put up an air and naval base on Scarborough Shoal," he said in a virtual roundtable discussion led by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institution.

Carpio said that without an air and naval base, ADIZ cannot be enforced over the South China Sea because of a "hole in China's radar, missile, and jet fighter coverage" in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.

ADIZ is defined by the United States government as a designated "area of airspace… within which the ready identification, the location, and the control of aircraft are required in the interest of national security."

The Philippines lost Scarborough Shoal to China after a controversial standoff in 2012. China blocked Filipino fishermen from Scarborough, also known as Panatag Shoal,which lies 120 nautical miles from Zambales. This prompted Manila to file a case for international arbitration, which it largely won.

The Hague-based international trabunal's landmark ruling in July 2016 recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in areas its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone that are being claimed by China. Although it did not rule on which country has sovereignty over Scarborough, it called out China for violating Filipinos' traditional fishing rights there.

One year into the Reed Bank incident — where 22 Filipino fishermen were abandoned at sea after a Chinese vessel rammed their boat — Carpio said nothing has changed as China continues to bully and intimidate the country into accepting the so-called nine-dash line as its national boundary.

Carpio criticized the Duterte administration's response, questioning why the government is shy in using its own arbitral victory to protest China's creeping encroachment on the country's economic exclusive zone. He said the government is prioritizing exploring its possible economic gains from China, which is not bearing fruit.

"The strategy of Philippines under President Duterte is also clear. The Philippines will never offend China. The Philippines will always appease China. We have set aside the arbitral ruling but the expected amount of loans have not materialized. Our strategy to defend the West Philippine Sea is in total disarray," the former justice said.

Former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario said Philippines should not be afraid to show some teeth against China, saying history shows China "respects" nations who push back.