MANILA— The Philippine government has so far filed 211 diplomatic notes against China since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power amid its continuing incursions in the country's waters, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.
In a message to reporters, Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez of the DFA Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy (OPCD) said that more than half or 153 notes verbale were filed this year alone.
The latest protest was issued on Sept. 30, which the DFA announced only on Tuesday.
It supposedly covered incidents in August when the military's Western Command in Palawan reportedly said that the Chinese issued warnings against Philippine authorities conducting patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone within the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
"Yes, the incidents in August are covered, but these types of warnings are SOP (standard operating procedure) by the Chinese just as our Coast Guard also issue warnings," Meñez said in a text message to reporters.
"The tweet was issued yesterday upon instructions. There have been 211 notes verbale issued since 2016," he added.
Manila and Beijing are locked in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea, where the West Philippine Sea is located.
China maintains constant presence in the area despite a July 2016 arbitral ruling of a UN-backed tribunal which invalidated Beijing's expansive claims in the resource-rich waters.
The DFA said on Wednesday that it protested “the unlawful issuance” of over 200 radio challenges, sounding of sirens, and blowing of horns by Chinese-flagged vessels against Philippine authorities.
In a tweet, the agency described the country’s patrols as “legitimate, customary, and routine,” pointing out that the Chinese vessels’ actions were “provocative” and threaten peace in the South China Sea.
“These provocative acts... run contrary to China's obligations under international law,” the DFA added.
Duterte has shelved the arbitral ruling in the South China Sea, and had called it a mere piece of paper that belongs to the trash bin. He has, instead, pursued friendlier ties with China in exchange for investments and infrastructure funding.
The Philippines has stressed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed waters, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes through international law.