MANILA - The Philippines has filed 83 diplomatic protests against China since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in mid-2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.
“We are trying to secure latest figure, but as of May 4, there had already been 83 protests under PRRD," DFA Office of Strategic Communication and Research Executive Director Ivy Banzon-Abalos told reporters in a message.
The DFA has vowed to file daily protests against the continuing presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
On May 13, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. ordered the DFA to file a diplomatic protest over the presence of almost 300 Chinese vessels “within and outside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.”
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported the presence of 287 Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels “scattered over various features of the Municipality of Kalayaan, both within and outside the EEZ of the Philippines”, based on its latest maritime patrol on May 9.
“Bigger groupings of CMMs were sighted at the artificial islands of China while some where observed near islands occupied by the Philippines,” it said.
The Philippines first spotted the massing of Chinese ships at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea in early March, prompting officials in Manila to file diplomatic protests and demand their withdrawal.
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea, had been declared as having no legal basis by a UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague in 2016.
Duterte forged friendlier relations with China upon assuming power in 2016, even setting aside the arbitral award in favor of economic aid and investments from Beijing.