MANILA—The Philippines should jointly patrol disputed areas in the South China Sea to fend off Beijing’s assertiveness, which persisted even if countries were grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said Monday.
Carpio cited a Chinese warship’s “hostile” act of pointing its radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship patrolling the West Philippine Sea last Feb. 17, saying it was “just one step to firing.”
“We don’t do that because if we make a mistake, you can trigger an accidental war. Navies really do not do that unless you want to bully another country,” he told an online forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
A Chinese survey ship, backed by coast guard vessels, also encroached on the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) on Vietnam in 2019, and Malaysia earlier this month.
Carpio said a joint patrol of Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in their EEZs would send a message of unity that China “cannot just pick on us one by one.”
“I think China doesn’t want to let this pandemic crisis go to waste by taking advantage,” he said. “We are battling a pandemic that came from China and China’s taking advantage of our difficulty right now.”
Manila earlier fired off diplomatic protests against China over the February 17 incident, and the creation 2 new
Carpio said the encounter with the Chinese warship was unusual and could be the first time that Beijing sent a patrol vessel near the Malampaya gas field, which is located some 80 kilometres from Palawan.
“This is a serious escalation by China,” he said, noting that Malampaya supplies some 40 percent of the energy recruitment in Luzon.
He said the Chinese corvette likely came from Mischief Reef, one of the features fortified by Beijing over the years in the Spratlys, which now serve as “daggers pointed at use” because of their proximity.