Carpio: Duterte's SONA should have discussed how gov't will protect rights over West PH Sea

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Here's what's missing in President Rodrigo Duterte's SONA, according to the Acting Chief Justice. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio is not fully satisfied with how President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the South China Sea dispute in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

"I was hoping that he would elaborate on how we will protect our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea. Everybody agrees that we should protect our sovereign rights. [The question is] really how," Carpio told reporters after the President's 48-minute speech on Monday.

Duterte in his third SONA said the country's "improved relationship with China does not mean we will waiver in our commitment to defend our interest in the West Philippine Sea."

Carpio said this is the "correct position," but stressed that protecting the country's sovereign rights includes filing of protests.

"If China builds and then we don't protest, we are waiving. We should keep on protesting because to protest does not cost you anything. It's just a piece of paper but you preserve your sovereignty over those islands," Carpio said.

He cited as an example the government's lack of protest over China's reported reclamation and construction on Sandy Cay, a disappearing sand bar within the 12-nautical mile territorial sea of Pag-asa Island.

READ: Why PH should fight for its territorial rights over Sandy Cay

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had said the government filed several diplomatic protests over China's actions on the disputed waters.

But Carpio said the government should disclose to the public details of these protests, a move the government has refused to make saying it would compromise national interest.

Carpio was part of the Philippine delegation to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that argued for and won the country's case against China. It invalidated China's sweeping claims to almost the entire South China Sea and awarded to the Philippines areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. The governments calls this West Philippine Sea.

China, however, refuses to acknowledge the landmark ruling. Duterte has promised to bring the arbitral decision up with China within his term.

CNN Philippines' Regine Cabato contributed to this report.