Why not make the Spratlys an international marine park?
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes this will result to a win-win solution for both the Philippines and China. It may even “suspend all their (claimant nations like the PH and China) territorial claims for 50 or 100 years and allow the reef to re-grow and be the breeding ground of fish” again, Carpio explained in an interview.
“The larvae of the eggs that are spawned in the Spratlys are carried by currents all the way to the coast of China, Vietnam, Luzon, Palawan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Sulu Sea. Everybody benefits,” Carpio added.
Best of all, the SC justice believed that this could result in a peace agreement with China and other affected countries in the region and thus the Philippines should pursue it.
There have been tensions among countries laying claim on parts of the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea) that political analysts fear may lead to a full scale war in the region. After the international arbitral tribunal ruling in The Hague that was in favor of the Philippine claim, countries like China, Japan and even the US and Australia have been flexing their military and naval muscles in the area and issuing threats.
If war should erupt among these countries, the Philippines will be easily dragged into it even if it assumes a neutral stance due to its proximity to the disputed waters. But this win-win proposal may halt the growing threat and lead to lasting peace.
The idea of a maritime park and protected area was actually the brainchild of Professor John McManus, American marine biologist. McManus also suggested the conversion of military facilities already put up on the Spratlys into marine research labs and eco-tourism facilities.
Carpio said that if we pursued this path (the marine park and marine research and eco-tourism facilities), all the pending territorial claims would be laid to rest. He was on the legal team that prepared the case for the Philippines during the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) sessions in The Hague.
This plan entails allowing only non-military patrol vessels, like civilian coast guards, to roam the area and protect it. Carpio pointed to the success of this idea to pacify tensions between Jordan and Israel in the Red Sea. And similarly, claimant parties also put up a marine park over the disputed sea as part of a peace agreement between them.
“It is a proposal that is a win-win solution for everybody. Nobody loses face because the disputes are set aside for the next 50 to 100 years and everybody benefits from that solution,” the senior associate justice stressed.
Carpio reminded that the PCA ruling only remedied the maritime argument. It did not resolve the territorial dispute between PH and China, especially on the Scarborough Shoal, because the PCA doesn’t have jurisdiction on the matter.
However, he believed that preventing further reclamation and dredging in said islands and reefs was the best remedy for now to protect and preserve what is still left “for the benefit of all the coastal states.”