Philippines files new diplomatic protest over lingering Chinese presence in reef

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 07 2021 03:09 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2021 03:17 PM

This handout satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2021 and received on March 25 from Maxar Technologies shows Chinese vessels anchored at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) around 320 kilometers west of Bataraza in Palawan in the West Philippine Sea. Handout via Agence France-Presse

MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday filed another diplomatic protest against China, vowing to do so everyday, as a Chinese maritime militia fleet remained in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

In a tweet, Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he would file a diplomatic protest every day until each maritime militia vessel from Beijing is gone from the reef, which lies within the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is the country's EEZ within the South China Sea, 90 percent of which China claims as its own, asserting historical rights despite a July 2016 UN tribunal ruling invalidating its expansive claim. 

“Firing another diplomatic protest. Every day ‘til the last one’s gone like it should be by now if it is really fishing,” Locsin pointed out.

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On Monday, the DFA said that the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest “(f)or every day of delay” as the agency reiterated Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s call for China to 
“immediately withdraw” its maritime assets in the area. 

At least 40 Chinese vessels remained in the reef as of Saturday, Lorenzana said. 

This handout satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2021 and received on March 25 from Maxar Technologies shows Chinese vessels anchored at the Whitsun Reef, around 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Bataraza in Palawan in the South China Sea. Satellite Image, Maxar Technologies/Handout via AFP/File

The agency also castigated the Chinese Embassy in Manila for issuing a statement containing “blatant falsehoods” such as claims of adverse weather conditions to justify the presence of its ships and its denial that maritime militia vessels are in the area.

It invoked the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea saying “that claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, are without lawful effect.”

Locsin had earlier said he was considering a “demarche” or a political step, as China claimed the Julian Felipe Reef as part of its territory. 

Analysts and several countries earlier warned China of its incursions in the West Philippine Sea, as it could threaten regional stability. 

The United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom were among those countries that voiced their concerns on the matter. 

- With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

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