MANILA – Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday slammed China after one of its ships was spotted patrolling Ayungin Shoal on the day the Chinese Coast Guard arrived in Manila for a goodwill visit.
“We tended a dinner for them. We welcomed them with a brass band, but they are putting pressure on our BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. I don’t think that’s how they should behave as friends,” he told reporters after making a presentation at the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands.
Manila keeps military presence in Ayungin in the West Philippine Sea, the country’s exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea, through BRP Sierra Madre, which ran aground on the shoal in 1999.
With the way China is behaving, Carpio urged the Philippine government to take a stronger stance to protect its interests in the vital waterway.
“We should be clear that yes we maintain diplomatic relations, cordial with them, but we should call them out,” he said.
Even Pag-asa Island, the largest island occupied by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, was not spared by China’s supposed intrusion, Carpio said.
“In fact, in the territorial waters of Pag-asa, they swarm within our territorial sea… They cannot just stay there, loiter there,” he said.
During the interview, Carpio said President Rodrigo Duterte’s “appeasement” of China would only embolden Beijing to fortify its claim.
China asserts indisputable sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea and has been ignoring a July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal invalidating its nine-dash line claim.
“All of these is appeasement and you will just embolden China. We’re sending the wrong message that we are accepting all of these threats, these insults, these intimidations and we’re not showing any protest or objection,” he said.
Because of the Philippine government’s seeming inaction in the sea, Carpio instead called on the public to remain vigilant against China’s sweeping claims and activities in the South China Sea.
“He [Duterte] already said that he had already asserted and that’s it. He will not do it again. So our problem is he is the chief architect of foreign policy… What do we do as citizens? We must be vigilant that there is no waiver, expressing implied our sovereign rights,” he said.