While more than 180 Chinese ships are still docked on the Julian Felipe Reef covered by the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), China’s additional Sinovac vaccine donation arrived on Wednesday.
According to retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, this may be China’s way of keeping the Philippines from succumbing to the ongoing encroachment.
“It’s possible that China is encroaching in our maritime zone, but softening it by sending us vaccines… Donating to us vaccines, it’s part of their PR effort to soften the blow. But we should not fall for that. Our maritime zones are very important. They’re vital for our survival, we can get those vaccines from other sources,” said Carpio.
But Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. insisted that there is no relationship between the vaccine donation and the maritime dispute.
“No, it is not. Unrelated. Any diminution of commitment to the totality of our rights in the West and South China seas would disobey PRRD’s UN declaration and is tantamount to disloyalty to the republic,” Locsin said.
China’s Department of Foreign Affairs had earlier filed a diplomatic protest, demanding that it remove the ships immediately.
China’s donated vaccines ‘consolation’ amid tension in WPS: Carpio
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte will personally talk to the Chinese ambassador about the Julian Felipe Reef incident.
The United States also reaffirmed its support for the Philippines.
“The US stands with our ally, the Philippines, regarding concerns about the gathering of People’s Republic of China maritime militia vessels near Whitsun Reef,” said Ned Price, spokesperson of the US State Department.
Even Japan spoke out and said that the rule of law should prevail in the West Philippine Sea and that it remains free, open, and peaceful.
But in a tweet, China said the United States should not interfere in the region and that it was only fueling tension in the ocean. The US Embassy is still silent.
It also did not like the Japanese ambassador’s statement. It responded to the embassy’s tweet and said it was incorrect to have other countries participating in the talks.