PH fires 2 fresh diplomatic protests vs China over West Philippine Sea incursions

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2021 12:53 PM | Updated as of Apr 23 2021 12:55 PM

Philippine Coast Guard personnel are seen onboard rubber boats as they sail near Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia at Julian Felipe Reef, West Philippine Sea. Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA — The Philippines has filed two new diplomatic protests against China over illegal presence in Philippine waters, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.

In a statement, the DFA said the diplomatic protests were lodged on Wednesday due to the "continued deployment, lingering presence, and activities of Chinese vessels" in the country's maritime zones, most especially in the West Philippine Sea. 

The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, which is believed to hold valuable gas and oil deposits. 

China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea had been adjudged by a UN-backed arbitration court to have no legal basis, but Beijing has continued to shun the ruling, instead ramping up militarization and island-building activities in the waters.

"The presence of these vessels blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the DFA said.

The diplomatic notes were on top of the "daily protests" they file against Beijing as some of its maritime assets remained on Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier vowed to do so every day until the last Chinese ship is gone from the area. 

The DFA said Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies have observed the “continued unauthorized presence and activities” of 160 Chinese fishing vessels and Chinese maritime militia vessels in Philippine waters. 

The vessels were sighted "within the territorial sea of high tide features in the Kalayaan Island Group, in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and in and around the territorial waters of Bajo de Masinloc,” it said. 

Five Chinese Coast Guard vessels with bow numbers 3103, 3301, 3305, 5101, and 5203 were also sighted deployed within the vicinities of Pag-asa Island, Bajo de Masinloc and Ayungin Shoal, which are all within the country's EEZ.

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In the filing, the Philippines also reminded China that Bajo de Masinloc, Pag-asa Island, Panata, Parola, Kota Islands, Chigua and Burgos Reefs are "integral parts of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction” and that “the Philippines exercises sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Julian Felipe Reef and Ayungin Shoal.”

“The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region,” said the DFA. 

The Philippines has repeatedly demanded that China adhere to international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and honor the July 2016 arbitration ruling invalidating its 9-dash line claim, which it described as “final and binding.”

It also reminded China of its commitments under the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, “in particular the exercise of self-restraint pursuant to Paragraph 5 thereof, in order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to the ongoing negotiations for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.”

The Philippine task force on the West Philippine Sea said Thursday it sent more patrol vessels to the waters amid continued Chinese presence in the area. 

Several countries have expressed concern over this development, with Philippine ally the United States on standby for Manila's distress call.

- With reports from Willard Cheng and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News