Chinese vessels still encroaching, says Philippines
Published on: Tuesday, May 11, 2021
By: Inquirer, ABS CBN News
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FILE - This March 7, 2021 photo shows Chinese maritime militia ships moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea. (NTF-WPS via Philippine Coast Guard) (Philstar Global)
MANILA: Chinese vessels are still in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said on Monday.

Sobejano revealed that the vessels sighted consisted of Chinese militia, coast guards, navy, and fishermen.

The AFP, however, cannot release the exact number of the vessels, as per the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea’s (NTF-WPS) orders.

Sobejano said that Philippine Navy ships patrolling the country’s territory often encounter radio challenges from Chinese vessels, transmitting messages with the template like: “This is our territory, get out of here.”

“But then we are not intimidated by those challenges, we continue our route. And we ensure that our patrol plan won’t be disrupted,” said Sobejano.

“We even challenge them also, invoking that the West Philippine Sea is within our exclusive economic zone. so it is our territory, they’re the ones who should leave since they are inside our territory,” he added.

According to Sobejana, the NTF-WPS currently has 10 navy ships under its command, patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for the sake of sovereignty control.

He then reiterated that the AFP is clear in its commitment to defend the country’s territories and its people.

The Philippines and China are in the middle of a long-running maritime dispute after the latter claimed that it owns the entirety of the South China Sea which includes portions of the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines challenged its claim through the International Permanent Court of Arbitration (IPCA) in The Hague in 2013 and won in 2016.

China, however, consistently refuses to recognise the ruling.

Chinese officials continue to insist that their country owned the area, ignoring a series of protests and demands made by the Philippine government for Chinese vessels to leave the WPS.

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday said it was sad that President Rodrigo Duterte backed out of a debate challenged he posted himself because this could have been an opportunity to inform the public about the issue on the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte dared Carpio to debate with him on who was responsible for losing parts of the resource-rich waterway to China. After Carpio accepted the challenge, his spokesman said the President was dissuaded from engaging in it because this might supposedly compromise national policies and confidential information.

“I was looking forward to a debate with him because this is the best opportunity to explain the issue to the public. Everybody will be glued to their televisions, to their computer monitors to watch it. It’s the best way for me to explain the issue to the public,” Carpio said.

“I’m sad that he withdrew, but that’s his privilege,” he said.

Asked about insults Duterte hurled at him and former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert Del Rosario, Carpio said, “He can call me any names, but I’d rather debate with him on the issues, on the merits.”

“Name-calling doesn’t mean anything. Any Tom, Dick, and Harry can call you anything, but nobody can discuss the merits unless you know the merits,” he said.

Duterte also alleged Carpio and Del Rosario had a hand at the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships in the West Philippine Sea.

The President said he would resign if he was proven lying.

Carpio reiterated that Duterte was wrong, and “if he’s true to his word of honour, he should resign.”

Carpio was a Supreme Court associate justice in 2012 when the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal happened. He said he “never attended any meeting of the executive” and all he knew about the situation were the information reported in the news.

“I had no inside information what’s happening. I did not know about the negotiations to withdraw...The entire cabinet of President Aquino will testify that I never participated in any of the discussions. I can prove it,” he said.


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