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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Expel Chinese; don’t downplay incident — analysts

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A maritime law expert on Sunday said the Philippines should expel Chinese diplomats in Manila to make room for a fresh dialogue, even as a US security analyst cautioned the Philippine government from downplaying the latest incident at Ayungin Shoal.

In a media interview, Prof. Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said Manila is making a deliberate effort to still seek a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the dispute.

He noted though that the current Chinese Embassy officials have not been helpful in bringing Manila-Beijing relations together and even contributed to the distrust and aggravated the issues.

“The defense attaché, the coast guard attaché — it’s their job to open the lines of communication and make sure that things like this don’t happen and from there, we will proceed. I think it would only be proper kasi nga hindi naman puwedeng walang consequence ‘yong ginawa nila,” he said.

Meanwhile, an American maritime security expert on Sunday said China’s hostile actions near Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal on June 17 were “clearly not an accident and misunderstanding, as he urged the Philippine government to be careful in its efforts to de-escalate the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

Former United States Air Force officer Ray Powell said China may see the de-escalation as an opportunity to reposition in its favor, just as it did after the 2012 standoff when it seized Scarborough Shoal, locally called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.

“I think those are unfortunate words. This is clearly not an accident, it is clearly not a misunderstanding,” Powell told ABS-CBN News in a virtual interview.

“These were deliberate acts by the China Coast Guard. We can differ on whether we want to classify this as an armed attack, but we cannot call this an accident,” he also said of the blocking by the China Coast Guard of a Philippine boat during an operation to resupply BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal.

“I think that the idea behind using terms like that was toward de-escalation. But we need to be very careful when we consider de-escalation as an outcome, that we don’t sort of fall into the trap,” he added.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, who is also the chair of the National Maritime Council, had said the violent encounter “was probably a misunderstanding or an accident.”

“We’re not yet ready to classify this as an armed attack. I don’t know kung ‘yung mga nakita namin is bolo, axe, nothing beyond that,” Bersamin said.


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