Carpio sees no concern, future action from Duterte amid presence of suspected Chinese militia in West PH Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 25)— Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte may not personally carry out any action to address the presence of suspected Chinese militia vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef, accusing the chief executive of having no sense of urgency on the case.

“I think the President will just allow the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] to protest, will allow our military to make noise, but he will not do anything,” Carpio told CNN Philippines’ The Source. “Because President Duterte doesn’t want to incur the ire of President Xi Jinping, because he loves [him].”

“I don’t see any sense of urgency, any concern by the President,” he added. “Remember, he considers President Xi Jinping as his best friend. So how can President Duterte go against his idol?”

The DFA over the weekend sent a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of some 220 suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels at the reef in the West Philippine Sea, within the country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Despite this, around 183 vessels in phalanx formation remain situated in the area as of March 22, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Carpio said Duterte could have called and “berated” China’s ambassador to the country right away, saying that other heads of state do this if there are “encroachments” in their respective territories.

“In situations like this, you immediately summon the ambassador of the other country. Here, we don’t do it,” the former magistrate argued.

Malacañang later in the day said that Duterte has met with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian, and that the two talked about the matter.

Ang sabi ng Chinese ambassador sila'y mangingisda, nandoon lang sila because they are seeking shelter. Wala naman pong kontrobersiya dahil hindi naman nila pinaglalaban na mananatili sila doon,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a media briefing.

[Translation: The Chinese ambassador said they were fishermen, and were only there because they are seeking shelter. There’s no controversy because they’re not pushing to stay there for long.]

Carpio earlier disputed this statement, claiming that the spotted ships are not built like ordinary fishing vessels.

Roque maintained that the government will continue to stand by the 2016 arbitral ruling— one that recognized sovereign rights of the Philippines in areas of its EEZ, and invalidated China's sweeping claims to the South China Sea.