‘Reed Bank issue first before environment case vs China’

Daphne Galvez – The Philippine Star

November 6, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government should first resolve the situation on Reed Bank before it files its environmental case against China on the damage to marine resources, including coral reefs, former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio has suggested.

Carpio said that while he is in favor of the government filing the case against China, it should first see whether it can go and begin exploration in Reed Bank – which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) northwest of Palawan – without being stopped by China.

Should China prevent the government from reaching Reed Bank – also known as Recto Bank – the Philippines can then include in its case the damage Beijing is causing in preventing Manila from oil exploration in Reed Bank.

“The environmental case should wait until we get a clear indication as to what will happen in Reed Bank. If we file now, we will be diverting our attention from what is the most urgent, (which is) to get the gas in Reed Bank,” he said in an interview over OneNews’ “The Chiefs” on Saturday.

He believes the Philippines’ environmental case against China is “a strong case,” especially if it gets a scientific assessment to prove that there is severe environmental damage.

Carpio renewed his call for the government to begin oil exploration at Reed Bank, which is said to be rich in oil and gas deposits, to stave off possible devastating effects on the economy of rising energy costs and drying up of natural gas in Malampaya.

He noted that Malampaya supplies 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon, and the Philippines should find a substitute for it once it dries up.

A 2013 report from the United States Energy Information Administration said Reed Bank could hold up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In 2016, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines and debunked China’s “historic rights” claim over the entire South China Sea.

With the ruling, Carpio said the question on who owns the gas at Reed Bank “had been erased” as it has been established that it belongs to Philippines’ EEZ.

China, to this day, however, refuses to recognize the arbitral decision in favor of the Philippines.

Carpio has suggested that the country could engage in joint patrols with the US for the venture, citing what Malaysia and Indonesia did.

The former SC justice had recommended bringing to arbitration Beijing and Manila’s territorial dispute over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

His suggestion came after China earlier accused the Philippines of illegally entering its waters near Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile EEZ.

Carpio said the Philippines has no choice but to bring the dispute to arbitration because the country is currently losing to China, which is “using force.”

“If we do not bring this to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) then we are losing, because we are entering into a battle with China – under the terms of China – because China will use intimidation, force; and we don’t have that force.  Our strength lies in the law,” he said.

Carpio expressed confidence that the Philippines will also win the case should it be brought before the ICJ.


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