China: Expert fires warning over ‘divide and conquer strategy’
Teodoro Locsin Jr, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, insisted the Government never gave permission for China’s Jia Geng research ship to stay in Filipino waters. The department had approved a “request for shelter” from the Chinese embassy over “bad weather”.
Commodore Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson, disputed the officials account and said the Chinese ship left the waters before midday on Monday.
Jia Geng’s captain “refused to allow” Filipino coast guards to board the vessel over coronavirus restrictions, after entering Philippine waters.
The ship entered the waters on January 29 according to the spokesman, but the Philippine department of foreign affairs’ maritime division claimed Jia Geng was spotted in Philippine territory from January 27.
It marks the second time the research vessel entered Philippine-held waters in the Pacific Ocean in the last year.
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Risa Hontiveros, Philippine opposition Senator, blasted the reentry of the Jia Geng into Filipino waters.
The Senator said the crews refusal to allow coast guards to board was a “violation of our rights” under international law.
She added: “Inside our territorial sea, we have an unambiguous right to board and inspect.
“If we are talking about COVID-19 protocols, our law applies, not China’s.”
Antonio Trillanes, former Senator, insisted the Philippine Coast Guard “should have immediately apprehended” the Chinese ship.
He added: “The fact that it didn’t apprehend the Chinese vessel shows the deferential treatment of our own Philippine Coast Guard towards China.
“This is yet another manifestation of Duterte’s policy of subservience to Beijing.”
Jay Batongbacal, a University of the Philippines maritime expert, added on Twitter: “Seeking refuge is fine, but if the vessel is a foreign government ship, then there should be no obstacle to simple diplomatic courtesy.”
China’s embassy in Manilla denied they had intruded the Philippines and said reports they had were sensationalised.
It said: “The fact is that the Chinese scientific survey ship is seeking humanitarian shelter in Philippine waters due to unfavourable weather and sea conditions in the Pacific, where they are scheduled to conduct a research mission.
“Malicious hype-up and irresponsible and baseless accusations that run counter to common sense, are not acceptable and should not be appeased in a society that believes in rule of law and international norms as well as mutual respect.”
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China has been frequently criticised by other countries for its aggressive maritime territory claims.
US President Joe Biden reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines to help them defend their waters against China.
Since Mr Biden took office, A US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea on January 23 to promote “freedom of the seas”.
In response, Chinese military aircraft practiced a mock attack on US aircraft carriers nearby the Theodore Roosevelt.
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