MANILA, Philippines — The presence of Chinese vessels at a reef in the West Philippine Sea could be a “prelude” of China’s occupation, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Wednesday.
He was referring to the presence of 220 Chinese vessels believed to be “manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel” at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef.
Carpio said China could be repeating its actions during its takeover over the Mischief Reef in 1995 where China started by building shelters for fishermen on the reef until eventually claiming it and turning it into a naval base.
“We are worried, I am particularly worried they can now start claiming, building on Julian Felipe reef just like what they did to Mischief reef in 1995,” he said in an interview over ABS CBN News Channel.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said the country has filed a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of Chinese vessels.
In a statement on Sunday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described the presence of 220 militia boats within the country’s EEZ and continental shelf as a “clear provocative action of militarizing the area” and said he viewed their presence in the area with grave concern.
“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” he said.
As of Monday, Lorenzana said Chinese vessels remained in place on the Julian Felipe Reef.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.