January 27 incident to be brought before arbitral tribunal
MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has summoned the charge d’affaires of China to protest the firing of water cannons at Filipino fishermen in a disputed shoal last January 27.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez said the incident involving a China Coast Guard vessel is only one of several incidents of harassments against Filipino fishermen at the disputed shoal.
“The department has also received information that about nine similar reports of harassment incidents of Filipino fishermen were committed by Chinese civilian maritime law enforcement agency vessels last year where even during inclement weather conditions, Philippine fishing vessels were driven away from the area,” he said.
He said that the harassment incidents included Chinese vessels going near Filipino boats to create big waves. The bigger vessels also blew their horns to drive away the fishermen, he said.
The January 27 incident is the latest, and it has been verified by Philippine government officials, Hernandez said.
He said two of 14 Filipino fishing boats were 30 to 40 yards away from the shoal when the China Coast Guard vessel with Bow Number 3063 “continuously blew its horn and thereafter doused the fishing vessels with water cannons for several minutes.”
Besides the coast guard vessel, there were two other Chinese vessels monitored in the area at that time of the incident.
“I don’t know if they’re there permanently or for a longer time, but they come and go,” Hernandez said.
“Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of the Philippines and over which the Philippines exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction. Philippine fishing vessels have been routinely, continuously, and peacefully and sustainably fishing in Bajo de Masinloc,” Hernandez said.
He said the Chinese vessels' presence there is still part of the insistence of China over its “excessive, expansive, and illegal” nine-dash line, which encompasses almost 90% of the entire West Philippine Sea.
“The whole thing is under protest. Their being there is under protest. And their attempts to drive away our Filipino fishermen are also under protest. The whole scheme being undertaken by the Chinese government in our territory where we have sovereignty rights is under protest,” he said.
Hernandez said the DFA is already preparing a paper that will be submitted to the arbitral tribunal by March 30.
The Philippines earlier brought before an arbitral tribunal China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea.
Hernandez said he can’t remember anymore how many note verbales have been sent to China over such protests. Nonetheless, the Philippines will continue to choose the peaceful route.
“These actions, incident surely escalate tension in the area, and threatens peace in the region. This is how peaceful we could be, and what happens now is we continue to find ways to effectively resolve and manage disputes peacefully in accordance with the rule of law,” he said.