Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told some 300 participants in a West Philippine Sea Forum in Palawan on Thursday, November 24, that declaring Spratlys as an International Marine Park could be the ultimate “win-win” solution to resolve territorial dispute over the area.
He underscored that winning the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling only solved maritime issues, but not territorial.
“I suggest that everybody [takes] part in convincing the government to move for the declaration of Spratlys as a marine protected area. First, if we can convince the other claimants Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia…we invite all other countries to adhere with the treaty declaring Spratlys as a marine protected area,” he explained during the open forum.
Carpio also said that more than just the ‘territorial issue’, what he is after is the preservation of South China Sea’s marine life nursery. Based on studies, South China Sea is one of the top five most productive fishing zones in the world in terms of annual fish catch.
Carpio echoed Professor John McManus when the latter said in a forum in Washingon DC last July that if we don’t establish Spratlys as a marine protected area, we are headed toward a major fisheries collapse in a part of the world that will lead to mass starvation.
Meanwhile, newly-installed Flag Officer-in-Command and Commander of Western Command VADM Ronald Joseph Mercado expressed support to the endeavor and its realization as a national policy.
“The Philippine Navy will always be in support of whatever policies and guidance that will be handed down by our national government…and that’s the very reason that we are always in touch with the discussions doon sa national task force on West Philippines Sea,” he said in an interview.
Relatedly, the Palawan Provincial Board passed a resolution last October 6 to officially express the province’s support to Senator Juan Edgardo Angara’s bill which declares Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan as a Special Ecological Tourism Zone and to declare Parola, Kota and Panata as protected areas under the NIPAS or National Integrated Protected Areas System.
The multi-sectoral WPS Forum was a joint-initiative of the Western Command and the provincial government of Palawan.