MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday took a different stance with retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio who claimed China is taking advantage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic by intensifying activities in the disputed South China Sea.
While he maintained that the Philippines will continue to defend its sovereign rights at the South China Sea, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque opposed Carpio’s remarks that China is “taking advantage” in ramping up presence in the hotly-contested waters.
“We do not agree with that conclusion. Although the current policy is we will defend all our national territory and our sovereign rights,” Roque said in a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4.
In an online forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Monday, Carpio suggested that the Philippines should hold joint patrols with Malaysia and Vietnam to counter “grave escalation” of China’s presence in the South China Sea.
Apart from the Philippines and China, Malaysia and Vietnam are also claiming parts of the South China Sea’s vast waters believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves.
In response to China’s “intimidation,” Carpio said the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam could jointly patrol each other’s territorial waters to send a message to Beijing that it “cannot just pick us out one by one.”
Roque said the government would consider Carpio’s proposed joint patrols with Malaysia and Vietnam.
He, however, said that the Palace has different opinion with Carpio when it comes to China’s reported presence in the South China Sea.
“We do not agree po with the personal opinions of Justice Carpio on what China is doing. But the suggestion on joint patrol is well taken. It will be considered,” Roque said.
On April 22, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed two diplomatic protests against China over its supposed activities in the South China Sea that violated both sovereignty and international law.
The diplomatic protests were filed after China pointed a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters and declared parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province.
During the Laging Handa program, National Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. advised Carpio to leave to defense experts the issues concerning the South China Sea.
Esperon said the government also needs to use its resources wisely to prevent putting the Philippines in an “awkward” position.
“Kung ang iniisip ni Justice Carpio ay pakikipag-giyera, eh iwanan na lang niya iyan sa defense at kinikilala natin siya sa larangan hustisya, eh huwag na siyang masyadong pumapel sa pakikipag-giyera (If Justice Carpio is thinking of waging a war, he should leave it to defense [experts]. We know him in the field of justice, but he should not bother thinking of going to war),” Esperon said. “Huwag tayong pumasok sa alanganin (Let us not put ourselves in an awkward situation).” (PNA)