MANILA (UPDATED)— President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s administration has so far filed 76 diplomatic notes and protests against China amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.
Manila sends notes and protests to Beijing "every time there is an illegal intrusion or action that's actually been committed in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone)," said DFA Spokesperson Teresita Daza.
"Ang DFA po almost regular na nagpo-protest kasi ho marami pong illegal na action na nangyari… Importante po na maging vigilant kami and through diplomatic action be able to say that they should not continue, this is violative of international law, and they should actually all actions that do not escalate tensions between our waters," she said in a televised briefing.
(The DFA protests almost regularly because many illegal actions have taken place. It is important that we stay vigilant.)
The tally includes 9 notes sent to China this year, said the official. These include the note verbale filed on February 14 over the Chinese Coast Guard's alleged use of military-grade laser against a Philippine Coast Guard vessel in Ayungin Shoal.
“For 2022, the total number of Chinese responses to (Philippine) protests is 101. Please note there is no one to one correspondence on Phl protests and China’s reply. China sometimes addresses multiple protests with one single reply note," Daza told reporters in a separate text message.
Video from PTV
Manila recently protested a Chinese security vessel's use of military-grade laser against a Philippine patrol boat near Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly Islands on Feb. 6.
The incident came just weeks after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed in January to set up direct communication between their foreign ministries to avoid "miscommunication" in the area.
The Chinese government used this mechanism on Feb. 14 to give its account of the laser incident, said Daza.
"Sa atin naman, ni-narrate din po natin kung anong nangyari and how we considered the incident as aggressive and threatening and also we hoped that this actually does not continue. 'Yan ang nangyari sa first use ng communication mechanism," she said.
(For our part, we narrated what happened and how we considered the incident as aggressive and threatening... That's what happened in the first use of the communication mechanism.)
The official said she hoped Beijing would take "concrete action" on Manila's "different calls and protests."
"Mayroon namang existing forms of engagement between the 2 countries. Gagamitin 'yun at gagamitin itong communication mechanism," she said.
(Those will be used along with the communication mechanism.)
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.
The laser incident occurred days after the United States and the Philippines agreed to resume joint patrols in the sea and struck a deal to give US troops access to another 4 military bases in the Southeast Asian country amid China's military rise in the region.
Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse