Carpio: Chinese maritime militia ‘highly likely’ behind ramming of Filipino fishing vessel

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 15) — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio says it’s highly likely that a Chinese maritime militia vessel rammed the Filipino fishing vessel F/B Gimber 1 in the West Philippine Sea on June 9.

China’s maritime militia vessels have reinforced steel hulls purposely for ramming fishing vessels of other coastal states, Carpio pointed out in a statement sent late Friday to CNN Philippines.

“No other coastal state has fishing vessels purposely designed for ramming other fishing vessels. Captains of ordinary Chinese fishing vessels do not engage in ramming for fear of inflicting damage to their own vessels,” Carpio underlined in the sttement.

Carpio's observation contradicts China's claim in an earlier press release, posted on its embassy’s social media accounts, that a Chinese fishing boat from Guangdong Province was suddenly “besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”

The statement was removed from the Chinese Embassy's social media pages on Friday, but was reposted on their official Twitter page on Saturday.

For Carpio, what happened near Reed Bank was a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“In the arbitration at The Hague, the tribunal ruled that the failure of China to prevent its fishing vessels, even those privately owned, from fishing within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea was a violation of UNCLOS. Here, the Chinese maritime militia vessel, under the command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), prevented the crew of F/B Gimver 1 from exercising their sovereign right to fish in the exclusive fishing ground of Filipino fishermen,” Carpio explained.

He added the Chinese maritime militias are trained, equipped, and organized by the PLA’s Navy.

“While at sea, Chinese maritime militia vessels are under the chain of command of the PLA. They are equipped with satellite radio communications and can communicate at any time with their local PLA commanders,” Carpio noted.

Start of “gray zone”

The senior magistrate said the ramming of F/B Gimver 1 is a “quantum escalation” of what he called China’s "aggressive acts" against the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

He warned that this may signal the start of a new “gray zone” offensive by China to drive away Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea, “in the same way that China is driving away Vietnamese fishing vessels in the Paracels [claimed by Vietnam].”

Carpio urged Filipinos to "take a strong stand" against China’s latest aggressive act and demand compensation for the owner of fishing vessel.

The Filipino people, he added, must also push that the captain and crew of the Chinese vessel be punished.

“The Filipino people must send a strong signal to China that any new ‘grey zone’ offensive of ramming Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea will mean a break of diplomatic ties with China,” Carpio said.