Carpio suggests joint patrols with Malaysia, Vietnam in South China Sea
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should join forces with Malaysia and Vietnam to counter China's "grave escalation" of tensions in the South China Sea, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had filed a diplomatic protest against China for pointing its gun control director at a Philippine Navy ship near Malampaya gas field in the West Philippine Sea.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command had confirmed that a People's Liberation Army Navy corvette pointed its gun control director—a computer that calculates firing solutions—at the BRP Conrado Yap in February.
Carpio, in an online forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, noted that the Malampaya area cuts through Beijing's so-called nine-dash line in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.
The retired Supreme Court magistrate also recalled that a Chinese ship and coast guard vessels also went near Malaysia's Petronas drilling area in the South China Sea mid-April.
Last year, Vietnam and China were involved in a standoff after Beijing deployed coast guard vessels and survey ships at Hanoi-controlled Vanguard Bank.
"I think we should have joint patrols with Vietnam and Malaysia. We patrol their [exclusive economic zone]," Carpio said Monday.
Carpio said the navies of the three countries could jointly patrol each other's territorial waters, sending a message to Beijing.
"We'll be sending a message... China cannot just pick us out one by one. We are united," he said.
The navies of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia already hold joint patrols in waters off the southern Philippines to deter kidnapping, piracy and maritime terrorism.
Stressing that the Philippines should take the matter seriously, Carpio also suggested joining the Americans in their naval patrols in the South China Sea if China insists on "doing the same thing."
While pointing its fire control system radar at a Philippine Navy ship could not considered an act of war, Carpio said it was a hostile act.
Citing the rules of naval engagement, Carpio said locking one's fire control radar on another ship is just one step to firing, which happens in less than a second.
"We don't do that that because you can mistake and you can trigger an accidental war so navies do not do that unless you want to bully another country," Carpio added.
'Taking advantage of pandemic'
Carpio also lamented how China is taking advantage of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which originated from Wuhan City in Hubei province.
"China doesn't want to let this pandemic crisis go to waste... China is taking advantage of our difficulty right now so I think it's time really to talk to our neighbors Vietnam and Malaysia, perhaps even Indonesia, that we should now conduct joint patrols," the retired magistrate said.
Earlier this month, China Global Television Network reported that Beijing established two districts to administer the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea under Sansha City in Hainan province.
The Philippines is also claiming some features in the Spratly Islands.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed that the DFA also lodged a diplomatic protest before the Chinese Embassy in Manila for "declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province."
The Philippines' top diplomat said China's actions constitute "violations of internatonal law and Philippine sovereignty."