September 6, 2023
MANILA – Should China interfere with the next BRP Sierra Madre resupply mission, the Philippine government should file another international case to seek payment for damages caused by Beijing’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza suggested on Tuesday.
Jardeleza cited the China Coast Guard’s (CCG) use of a water cannon last August and the use of a military grade laser against the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in March in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal as the main focus of the new case seeking “exemplary damages.”
Jardeleza repeated his calls during a media forum that discussed the effectiveness of the more than 100 diplomatic protests filed by the government against Beijing for its illegal activities in the South China Sea, but have done little to mitigate the CCG’s harassments.
Jardeleza, who was solicitor general in 2013 that spearheaded the country’s case in the arbitral court, said this new case should be filed as soon as possible while the cases are still fresh.
“If China keeps refusing to recognize the tribunal then you file a $1 million case, in the next incident $2 million, then $3 million,” Jardeleza said.
The former justice said that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the Philippine government can seek damages, the amount of which would depend on the actual logistical costs (fuel and ship operation), the health risks and hazards posed on the crew, and the administrative expenses in executing the said missions hinged by China.
Unclos created the adhoc arbitral tribunal, which awarded to the country the 2016 Arbitral Award that affirmed the country’s sovereign rights over its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea and rejected China’s sweeping nine-dash line claim.
But filing the case is more than just seeking payment. Jardeleza said this was to “deter future untoward incidents” not just in Ayungin, but more importantly in Recto (Reed) Bank.
Recto Bank, which is within the country’s EEZ, is believed to hold up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, according to the 2013 US Energy Information Administration report.
Such a large reserve is the only plausible replacement for the dwindling resources of the Malampaya reserves, which are expected to run out by 2027.
Malampaya provides power to over 40 percent of areas in Luzon.If the Philippines continues to win these cases and other countries follow suit, “China might think, especially because we are an open society, ‘let’s not interfere anymore because they might file another case’” Jardeleza said.
But such a suggestion may not be realistic as there’s no international court that has jurisdiction over military encounters in the seas, former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.