MANILA — The Philippines has filed 78 diplomatic protests against China since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, according to data provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Monday.
"There have been 78 diplomatic protests to China under PRRD," DFA Office of Strategic Communication and Research Executive Director Ivy Banzon-Abalos told reporters.
On Friday, the Philippines filed two new diplomatic protests against China over its illegal and lingering presence in Philippine waters, the DFA said.
It had vowed to continuously file diplomatic actions until Beijing's ships leave the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is believed to hold valuable gas and oil deposits.
The DFA has said that 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."
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea has been adjudged to have no legal basis by a UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague last 2016.
The DFA has repeatedly demanded that China adhere to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as the arbitral ruling.
Last week, Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte has not spoken about the presence of Chinese boats in the West Philippine Sea because his aides have already done so.
Under the doctrine of qualified political agency, "the utterances of the alter egos are utterances of the President, unless the President renounces them," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
"Kapag hindi po dini-disown ng Presidente ang sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter egos, parang siya na ang nagsasalita. Hindi na siya kinakailangan magsalita," Roque said.
Since coming to power in 2016, Duterte has criticized US foreign policy and sought to improve ties with Beijing, but China's maritime assertiveness has put him in a difficult spot at times.
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea had been declared to have no legal basis by a UN-backed arbitration court.
- With reports from Jamaine Punzalan