MANILA - "An exercise of the right of innocent passage."
This is how the Chinese Foreign Ministry explained why a People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessel entered Philippine waters without permission from January 29 to February 1, and reached Palawan's Cuyo Group of Islands, and Apo Island in Mindoro.
In a press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian confirmed the entry of the Chinese navy vessel in Philippine waters.
"China’s naval vessels’ sailing through the Philippine waters was an exercise of the right of innocent passage pursuant to UNCLOS. The Chinese passage was safe and standard, and consistent with international law and international practice. We hope relevant parities can view it in an objective and rational manner," he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday said it has summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian over the lingering presence of a Chinese navy ship in the Sulu Sea.
In a statement, DFA said a People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessel entered Philippine waters without permission from January 29 to February 1, and reached Palawan's Cuyo Group of Islands, and Apo Island in Mindoro.
The Philippine Navy's BRP Antonio Luna challenged the Chinese vessel, which claimed innocent passage. However, it lingered in the area for three days despite being repeatedly directed by the Philippine Navy to leave immediately.
"As a country that abides by its international commitments, the Philippines recognizes the right of innocent passage in accordance with Article 52 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, the actions of PLAN 792 did not constitute innocent passage and violated Philippine sovereignty," the DFA added.
Acting Undersecretary Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro said China should respect Philippine territory and maritime jurisdiction, as well as to comply with its obligations under international law.
China is the most aggressive among claimants in the South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea, building artificial islands on some features, fortifying those with military installations, and driving away officials and fishermen from other countries.
It continues to defy a landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, declaring its nine-dash line claim over almost the entire South China Sea as having no legal basis.