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.


Greece moves more migrants to mainland as arrivals increase

Updated 32 min 59 sec ago

Greece moves more migrants to mainland as arrivals increase

  • Some 697 migrants and refugees arrived in the port of Elefsina near Athens from the island of Samos
  • Greece is struggling with the biggest resurgence in refugee and migrant flows across the Aegean Sea from Turkey since 2015

ATHENS: Authorities in Greece moved more asylum-seekers to the mainland on Tuesday as part of a strategy to reduce the refugee population on outlying islands after an increase in arrivals in recent months.

Some 697 migrants and refugees arrived in the port of Elefsina near Athens from the island of Samos, officials said. Earlier, 120 people arrived from Lesbos.

Greece is struggling with the biggest resurgence in refugee and migrant flows across the Aegean Sea from Turkey since 2015, when more than a million crossed into Europe, many of them via Greece.

The islands, which are closest to Turkey, have been struggling under the influx, with some 33,700 refugees and migrants in overcrowded camps, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

In late September, a woman died in a fire in a tent in a camp on Lesbos, while another fire in a severely overcrowded camp in Samos forced hundreds of people into the streets this month.

“Our focus was mainly on Samos because we want things there to calm down,” migration ministry secretary Manos Logothetis told Reuters.

More than 12,000 people arrived in Greece in September, the highest level in the three-and-a-half years since the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to seal the Aegean corridor to Europe.

Logothetis said up to 300 more people would be leaving Samos this week, and up to 2,000 from all outlying islands next week. Greece aims to move up to 20,000 off the islands by the end of the year, he said.

Athens has announced a stricter migration policy to deal with the crisis, including plans to deport 10,000 people who do not qualify for asylum by the end of next year.