MANILA, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio denounced the targeting of a Philippine Navy vessel by a Chinese warship in the West Philippine Sea, calling it a hostile act that heightened tensions and put Filipinos’ lives at risk.
"A warship that locks its fire-control radar on another warship commits a hostile act under naval rules of engagement. Locking the fire-control system is one step away from actual firing," Carpio told Rappler.
Carpio, a staunch defender of the West Philippine Sea, added the incident was "pure and simple bullying" by China.
Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal also condemned the incident, calling it a "provocative and reckless escalation" of tensions in the South China Sea, where China has ramped up aggressive activity as countries battled the coronavirus pandemic.
"It is a provocative and reckless escalation by China, notably against a country (Philippines) that it professes friendly relations with and has gone out of its way to accommodate it's demands to cooperate in projecting an image of peaceful and untroubled relations in the SCS (South China Sea)," Batongbacal told Rappler.
Batongbacal noted the gravity of the incident, citing a similar encounter which took place between a South Korean naval ship and Japanese surveillance plane in 2018 and almost jeapordized relations between the two countries.
China itself had also clashed with Japan over the former’s supposed locking of a weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese navy ship in 2013.
What else has China done? Aside from targetting a Philippine Navy ship, China has also sought to assert its ownership in the South China Sea by recently staking claim and naming 80 maritime features, and dividing the maritime area into two districts to be under the control of Sansha City in the Hainan province.
The Philippines and Vietnam had protested the moves as violations of sovereignty and international law.
China’s moves violate the historic 2016 Hague ruling that asserted the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea and invalidated China’s sweeping 9-dash line over the strategic maritime area. – Rappler.com