PH seen to get support of ASEAN countries, other states if Hague ruling raised at UN assembly — Carpio

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The Philippines is expected to gain backing from neighboring coastal countries and several other member states should the government decide to raise the South China Sea arbitral win at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, a former Supreme Court justice says. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 10)— The Philippines is expected to gain backing from neighboring coastal countries and several other member states should the government decide to raise the South China Sea arbitral win at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, a former Supreme Court justice said Thursday.

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said four fellow Southeast Asian nations involved in territorial disputes with China — Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia— can help campaign for the enforcement of the ruling when the assembly convenes on September 15.

“We ask the civilized community of countries in the world to help us enforce the ruling, to tell China, that China must abide with international law. That China cannot just seize exclusive economic zones of other coastal states,” Carpio, a vocal critic of the current administration’s policies on the maritime dispute, said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“The world will be a terrible place to live in, and the coastal states know this. That’s why we expect an overwhelming majority of coastal states to support us, because by supporting us they will be preserving the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which protects them,” the former magistrate added. He noted that China’s possible seizing of the EEZs “would mean the UNCLOS will collapse.”

Aside from the ASEAN, Carpio likewise cited European nations such as United Kingdom and France, as well as the United States, Australia, and Japan as some of the countries that have previously backed the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral victory.

“We expect a lot of support, and I think, at the very least, we will have a majority on our side,” he said.

In a joint statement in August, Carpio alongside former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario called on President Rodrigo Duterte to assert the Hague tribunal's ruling during the UNGA, saying the chief executive must use the remainder of his term to gain the support of the 193 UN member nations on the case.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr., however, earlier rejected the proposal, warning that bringing up the territorial row could only affect the country’s legal victory. He said raising China's misdeeds before the assembly could only trigger a reopening of the case which could be interpreted differently.

The 2016 ruling by the international arbitral tribunal constituted under UNCLOS invalidated China's sweeping claims to the South China Sea. It also recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile EEZ where China has built artificial islands, prohibited Filipino fishermen from fishing, and interfered in petroleum exploration.

China, however, has continuously refused to acknowledge the landmark decision, which it labeled as “illegal and invalid.”

Duterte, who has nurtured close ties with China during his tenure, earlier agreed to “set aside” the ruling to pursue cordial relations with Beijing.

READ: Duterte on sea row with China: No war, just ‘diplomatic endeavors’

World opinion

Carpio meanwhile acknowledged that a possible decision at the UN assembly favoring the Philippines would not necessarily have a legal binding effect.

However, he justified that such development will still have a significant impact on China’s relations with other member states and countries in the world.

“The UN resolution is an expression of opinion of the countries who are members of the United Nations... There are only two ways that China will comply— China voluntarily complying, which we do not see happening, and China is forced by world opinion to comply. China needs the world, because China has to export to survive, it has to import to survive, and China wants to show the world it is a model in terms of economic development for a state," Carpio said.

“But if China will just seize the EEZ of its neighbors, nobody will respect China. Everybody will be fearful of China. China will not command the respect of its neighbors,” he explained.

CNN Philippines' Melissa Lopez and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.