China's vaccine donations 'soften blow' while maritime militia swarms Julian Felipe Reef â Carpio
(Left) On March 7, the Philippine Coast Guard spotted Chinese militia ships on Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea. (Right) On March 24, the Philippines received another batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government.
NTF-WPS via PCG | Chinese Embassy in Manila

China's vaccine donations 'soften blow' while maritime militia swarms Julian Felipe Reef — Carpio

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - March 24, 2021 - 10:47am

MANILA, Philippines — China appears to be appeasing the Philippines by donating COVID-19 vaccines while its maritime militia swarms Julian Felipe or Whitsun Reef in the West Philippine Sea, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Coast Guard confirmed that about 220 Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be part of Beijing's maritime militia, were seen moored in line formation on the coral reef on March 7. 

A week before this, the Philippines received 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government. A second batch of 400,000 doses arrived Wednesday morning, a few days after the Philippines fired a diplomatic protest over the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.

"It's possible that China is encroaching on our maritime zone but softening it by sending us vaccines, by donating to us vaccines. It's part of their PR effort to soften the blow but we should not fall for that," Carpio told ANC's "Headstart" on Wednesday.

Noting that the country's maritime zones are important and vital for survival, Carpio added that the Philippines do not have to rely on China for vaccines.

Prelude to occupying Julian Felipe Reef

Carpio, a member of the Philippine delegation in its arbitration against China's expansive maritime claims before the UNCLOS tribunal, warned that the presence of Chinese boats in Julian Felipe might be a prelude to occupying the area.

The retired magistrate compared the latest development to how the Chinese occupied Mischief Reef, which is also within Philippine exclusive economic zone, back in 1995.

"They started saying they just built fisherman shelter on Mischief Reef. Now Mischief Reef is an air and naval base. They call it their Pearl Harbor in the South China Sea," he said.

While the Chinese Embassy claimed that the boats were just "fishing vessels taking shelter," Carpio pointed out that there was no storm anywhere near Julian Felipe Reef at the time.

Earlier this week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed that at least 183 Chinese militia vessels are still present in the reef about 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.

On Tuesday night, the Department of Foreign Affairs called on China to withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

"We reiterate that the continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels in Philippine maritime zones blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the DFA said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 31, 2021 - 11:14am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

May 31, 2021 - 11:14am

The government should name and identify rocks and features in the Kalayaan Island Group to assert Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, a senator says Monday.

"The features we occupy in the KIG remain unnamed. Mapapalakas ang paggiit natin ng ating karapatan sa WPS kung malinaw ang pangalan, katangian, at sakop ng mga inaangkin nating teritoryo. Udyukin na ng DENR ang National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) para simulan ang pag-papangalan ng mga ito," Sen. Risa Hontiveros says in a statement. 

May 18, 2021 - 10:04pm

The Philippines protests China’s unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says the Philippines does not recognize China’s fishing moratorium as it covers areas over which the country exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

"China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law," the DFA says in a statement.

May 3, 2021 - 8:58am

The DFA protests the illegal presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and their belligerent actions against the Philippine Coast Guard. 

DFA also rejects the statement of Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin that China enjoys sovereignty over Panatag Shoal/Bajo de Masinloc. 

"China has no enforcement rights in these areas... The unauthorized and lingering presence of these vessels is a blatant infringement of Philippine sovereignty," the DFA says in a statement.

April 28, 2021 - 12:24pm

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. orders the filing of another diplomatic protest against China following the statement of a Chinese official on the Philippine Coast Guard's exercises in the West Philippine Sea.

"They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague. But we must not fail to protest. @DFAPHL have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now," says Locsin on Twitter.

April 25, 2021 - 1:08pm

The Philippine Coast Guard sends BRP Malapascua and BRP Francisco Dagohoy (MMOV 5002) — a fisheries bureau vessel manned by PCG personnel — to Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea for maritime exercises.

Pagasa Island is in the Kalayaan Island Group of Palawan province.

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