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Asean Unity Key To Sea Issue–Carpio

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio doubts that the country’s next President would pursue bilateral talks to settle the country’s territorial dispute with China. At the same time, Carpio said it was time for countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to come together and agree that territorial disputes in the region be settled through international arbitration. Once the agreement is set, the nations could invite China to join the move.

If the latter refuses, “it will be seen by the world as refusing to settle the territorial dispute,” said Carpio.

Carpio briefed Senators on Wednesday on the South China Sea dispute, providing them with an overview of the issues, the history of China’s claims, and what to expect from the decision on the arbitration case the Philippines filed.

On the possibility of bilateral talks with China if there would be a new Philippine president, the senior Associate Justice noted that China preferred this. But it also demands that the nations it negotiates with should first concede China’s sovereignty over the disputed territories before any talks of revenue sharing of oil and gas. None of the Asean states have agreed to this “because you cannot concede sovereignty,” he said.

“I do not think any President will agree to concede sovereignty to China just to get 50 percent of the oil that already belongs to us under international law. I don’t see that ever happening,” he said.

Earlier, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is seeking the presidency in next year’s elections, said he was open to a joint exploration with China in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
The Aquino administration has filed an arbitration case to challenge Beijing’s claim over most of the South China Sea. China has refused to recognize the case.

The United Nations arbitral tribunal is expected to rule first on whether or not it has jurisdiction over the case. If it decides in favor of its jurisdiction, it would proceed to hear the merits of the Philippine case. (L. Salaverria, inq)