Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Tuesday warned of “severe damage” that the Philippines could suffer from nuclear warfare should the situation in the Korean peninsula escalate.
As a non-nuclear-weapon state, Santiago said the Philippines would still suffer severe damage from nuclear warfare either directly by the blast effects or indirectly by local or “long-distance fallout.”
“Because nuclear weapons produce blast effect and release a fireball of extremely high temperature, the Philippine environment could be degraded for generations,” she said in a statement.
“In our country, residual radiation could cause severe damage to human health, such as leukemia, congenital defects and mental retardation. A nuclear winter would create dust clouds absorbing the sunlight, dropping temperatures, and damaging agriculture in wide areas of our country,” she pointed out.
Hence, Santiago said, the Philippines should clarify that as with other rules of humanitarian law, the duty to respect the ingetrity of neutral states applies to all types of warfare.
She said North Korea would fall under the duty to justify the use of particularly destructive weapons if they would seriously affect neutral countries like the Philippines.
“The consequences entailed by unjustified use will be governed by the law of state responsibility,” said the senator.
However, Santiago said there was no treaty, which provided the rules expressly governing the use of nuclear weapons in combat.
Present treaties, she said, dealt only with “manufacturing, testing,possession, proliferation, deployment, limitation, and reduction of nuclear arms.
Santiago said even customary international law did not limit the armaments levels of a state.
Nevertheless, she pointed out that international law prohibited “unnecessary suffering.”
If North Korea uses the atomic bomb, Santiago said it would become liable in international law under the principle of states responsibility and international humanitarian law.
“If the North Korea nuclear strike hits Philippine civilian population and cannot be justified, the nuclear strike might constitute grave breach of humanitarian law,” she said.
“Hence, under international law, North Korea would assume the duty to pay reparations, which can amount to extreme proportions.”
The use of the atomic bomb, Santiago said, may also qualify as war crimes and as crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Santiago has been elected as one of the judges in the ICC.