Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio expressed concerns on Wednesday that China might seize and occupy the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio said the government should be worried about the presence of the Chinese vessels near the reef, which is within Manila’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
“The way I look at it, this is a prelude to occupying Julian Felipe Reef, just like what they did to Mischief Reef in 1995. They started [by] saying they just built a fishermen shelter on Mischief Reef. Now, Mischief Reef is their air and naval base, they call it their ‘Pearl Harbor’ in the South China Sea,” Carpio told ANC.
“I’m particularly worried that they will now start claiming, building on Julian Felipe Reef just like what they did on Mischief Reef,” he said.
China earlier denied the presence of its militia vessels in the area, insisting the reef was part of Chinese territory. China calls the reef Niu’e Jiao, adding it was traditionally used as a shelter for Chinese vessels during bad weather.
Carpio fears Chinese militia vessels will occupy Julian Felipe Reef
However, Carpio said, “no storm was anywhere near Julian Felipe Reef.”
Earlier, an official from the United States government said it stood with the Philippines regarding its protest against China’s ‘maritime militia’ vessels staying near Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea
“The U.S. stands with our ally, the Philippines, regarding concerns about the gathering of PRC maritime militia vessels near Whitsun Reef. We call on Beijing to stop using its maritime militia to intimidate and provoke others, which undermines peace and security,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the Philippine government demanded the immediate withdrawal of dozens of Chinese vessels illegally moored within the West Philippine Sea, noting their lingering presence was a blatant infringement of the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.
However, the Chinese Embassy in Manila criticized the support of the US in the Philippines’ protest against Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea, saying it could affect the “peace and stability” in the disputed territory.