China has no authority to prevent PH from holding exercises in WPS: Lorenzana

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 28 2021 04:02 PM

DFA's Locsin to file new diplomatic protest vs Beijing

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard participate a training on navigation, small boat operations, maintenance, and logistical operations in the West Philippine Sea in Palawan on April 24, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA - China has "no authority or legal basis to prevent" the Philippines from conducting maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

"Atin yan (That's ours). Their claims, according to their so-called historical rights, have no basis, while we have 2 international documents saying the area is ours: the (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) of which China is a signatory, and the Arbitral award of 2016," Lorenzana said in reaction to the reiteration last Monday by China of its claim of sovereignty over some features in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. directed his agency to file another diplomatic protest against China following the remarks made by Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of China's foreign ministry.

“They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague," Locsin said on Twitter.

"we must not fail to protest. @DFAPHL have we fired off a diplomatic protest? Do it now,” he said.

THE UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague invalidated China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea in a ruling in 2016. Beijing continues to disregard it.

The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

Personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are conducting maritime exercises in Philippine waters, even as Chinese ships have been sighted there since early March, defying instructions from Filipino officials to withdraw.

Other countries have also criticized China's incursions, saying these threaten peace and stability in the region.

At a press briefing last Monday, Wang said China has sovereignty over what it calls the Nansha Islands or the Spratlys, which includes Zhongye Island or Pag-asa Island, and Zhongsha Islands that include Huangyan Island or the Scarborough Shoal.

The areas are either within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, or being claimed and partly occupied by Manila based on domestic laws.

"We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes," said Wang when asked for reaction on the Philippines' maritime exercises in the waters.

Lorenzana said the UNCLOS gave the Philippines "sovereign rights to exploit the natural resources of an area measured 200 (nautical miles) from our mainland."

"The Arbitral award has categorically stated that the Chinese claim bounded by their so-called nine-dash line according (to) their “historical right” has no basis in fact," he added.

"Therefore, it is they (Chinese) who are encroaching and should desist and leave... it is they who are complicating the situation by their illegal occupation of reefs which they built into artificial islands."

"Walang basis yung nine-dash line nila, according to an international tribunal, ergo sila ang nagko-complicate ng situation by insisting to stay within our WPS."

(Their nine-dash line theory has no basis, according to an international tribunal, ergo they are the one's complicating the situation by insisting to stay within our WPS.)

Retired Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had warned that the presence of hundreds of Chinese ships at the vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) since March may be a prelude to occupation and building of military base, as Beijing did on Mischief Reef, also in the West Philippine Sea, in 1995.

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has yet to issue a clarification if the protest ordered anew by Locsin would cover Wang's comments or if it refers only to the daily protest that the agency vowed to file as long as Chinese vessels remain at the Julian Felipe Reef.

The agency on April 23 filed two additional diplomatic protests against China over its illegal and lingering presence in Philippine territory.

President Rodrigo Duterte forged friendlier relations with China since assuming power in 2016, temporarily setting aside the arbitral award on the South China Sea in favor of economic aid and investments.

- with report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

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