Boat sinking ‘signals new offensive’ by China, says Filipino judge

Philippine Navy helicopters and assault vessels simulate a rescue operation during the 120th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy, in this fiel photo taken May 22, 2018 in suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Updated 16 June 2019

Boat sinking ‘signals new offensive’ by China, says Filipino judge

  • Carpio warned that the incident “may signal the start of a new ‘gray zone’ offensive by China to drive away Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippines Sea

MANILA: A leading Philippines judge has described the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel as a “quantum escalation” of Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio late on Friday said it was highly likely a Chinese maritime militia vessel had rammed the Filipino fishing boat F/B Gimver 1 on June 9 in Recto Bank.
Carpio warned that the incident “may signal the start of a new ‘gray zone’ offensive by China to drive away Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) in the same way that the Chinese are driving away Vietnamese fishing vessels in the Paracel Islands.”
“The Filipino people must send a strong signal to China that any new ‘grey zone’ offensive of ramming Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippines Sea will mean a break of diplomatic ties with China,” he said.
The Philippines must take a strong stand against China’s latest aggressive act and demand compensation for the owner of the fishing vessel as well as punishment for the captain and crew of the Chinese vessel, he said.

Carpio said that Chinese maritime militia vessels were built with reinforced steel hulls purposely for ramming fishing boats of other coastal states.
“No other coastal state has fishing vessels designed for ramming other fishing vessels. Captains of ordinary Chinese fishing vessels do not engage in ramming for fear of damaging their own vessels,” he said.
The captain and crew of the Filipino boat have claimed that a Chinese fishing vessel rammed their boat. Reports also quoted the rescued crew as saying that their boat had its lights on when it was struck.
“It was around midnight. We were anchored and were showing a lot of white (bright) lights to signal our position when a ship suddenly appeared out of nowhere and hit us. I was trying to start our engine when we were hit in the stern,” Junel Insigne, the boat’s captain, said.
“After the ramming, they returned and turned their lights on us to make sure that our boat was submerged before they left.”
Carpio said that the ramming of the Filipino boat was a violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“China’s maritime militia vessels have been ramming Vietnamese vessels in the Paracels for several years now. However, this is the first time a Chinese maritime militia vessel has rammed a Filipino fishing boat,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila on Friday admitted that a Chinese fishing vessel had been involved in the incident. In a statement posted on its official Twitter account, the embassy identified the vessel as Yuemaobinyu 42212 from Guangdong Province.
However, it claimed the boat was “berthed” in the area when it was “besieged” by seven or eight Filipino fishing boats.
The Chinese captain “tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats,” it said.
The embassy added that the Chinese vessel sailed away from the scene only after confirming that “the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued and on board other Filipino fishing boats.”
“There was no such thing as a hit-and-run,” it said.


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 52 min 46 sec ago

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.