MANILA - The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest with China over the alleged encroachment of its vessels in Ayungin Reef near Palawan.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Hernandez said the protest was filed last May 10 “because we believe that Ayungin is an integral part of our national territory.”
He said the reef, off Kalayaan town in Palawan, is within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is thus covered by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.
He said two maritime surveillance ships and one warship were found in the area, besides the fishing vessels allegedly poaching the country’s resources.
“Lately, we have been monitoring the movements of the fishing vessels,” which he said is necessary in collecting information in order that agencies can respond.
Asked if the Philippines is taking a policy not to engage the Chinese as a result of its row with Taiwan, Hernandez only said “our agencies are already mandated to protect our territories.”
“Our government agencies [Philippine Navy and Coast Guard] are mandated to make sure that there are no intrusions in Philippine waters and only we are able to explore in our EEZ,” he said.
He said he will not go into further details “as to what operations they will be doing to carry out that mandate.”
He noted also that “nobody should question our resolve on [ensuring] that what is ours will be respected.”
Taiwan has imposed sanctions on the Philippines after a fisherman was shot by Coast Guard members in Philippine seas.
The government has since apologized. Still, overseas Filipino workers there have borne the brunt of Taiwanese anger, with a couple getting hit by baseball bats.