No plan of permanent presence? Move ships out of West Philippine Sea, Locsin tells China
This composite photo shows Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. Locsin told China to pull out its ships in the West Philippine Sea after Zhao said Beijing does not have any plan to maintain permanent presence in Julian Felipe Reef.
YouTube screengrab/Senate of the Philippines | FMPRC/Released

No plan of permanent presence? Move ships out of West Philippine Sea, Locsin tells China

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - April 8, 2021 - 10:42am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' top diplomat once again asked China to pull out its vessels in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef after Beijing said it does not intend to maintain a permanent presence in the area.

China's foreign ministry maintained its position that the vessels spotted in the coral reef off the coast of Bataraza, Palawan were just fishing vessels and not maritime militia.

"Then tell them to move out. All of them. If they're really fishing the fish are all gone; they're just fouling the water with waste. Nobody fishes by lashing ships together," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs started filing daily diplomatic protests against the continued presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA earlier said the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest "for every day of delay."

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea initially confirmed that 220 Chinese vessels, believed to be part of China's maritime militia, were sighted moored in the waters of Julian Felipe Reef.

The DFA has since filed a diplomatic protest but Chinese vessels still remain in the area and have dispersed to other features in the West Philippine Sea.

As of March 29, 44 Chinese boats remain in Julian Felipe Reef while 115 Chinese militia ships were seen in Chigua (Kennan), 45 in Pag-asa (Thitu) Island and 50 others dispersed in Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora (Subi) Reefs.

'Wanton hype-up'

China, meanwhile, urged the Philippines to stop its allegations and insisted that Julian Felipe Reef, which they call Niu'e Jiao, is part of its Nansha (Spratly) Islands.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused Philippine authorities of showing "malicious intent" by referring to Chinese fishermen as maritime militia.

"We hope the Philippines will look at this objectively and correctly, immediately stop wanton hype-up, and avoid casting negative influence on bilateral relations and the overall peace and stability in the South China Sea," Zhao said in a press briefing last Tuesday.

Zhao further claimed that the award in the South China Sea arbitration, which favored the Philippines, is "illegal, null and void."

Beijing said it will continue to oppose any action or claims based on the arbitral ruling that invalidated its expansive claims in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

"The Philippines attempts to use an illegal, null and void award to negate China's sovereignty, rights and interests, negate Chinese fishermen's fishing history and rights in their traditional fishing grounds in the Nansha Islands which have been continued for as long as a thousand of years," Zhao said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 5, 2021 - 3:42pm

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

April 5, 2021 - 3:42pm

The Department of Foreign Affairs says Chinese Embassy’s statement in response to DND Sec. Lorenzana “contained blatant falsehoods such as claims of adverse weather conditions when there were none and the supposed non-existence of maritime militia vessels” in Julian Felipe Reef.

"The continued deployment, lingering presence, and activities of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea and China’s tolerance thereof blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the agency says.

April 4, 2021 - 1:37pm

"China should respect Philippine sovereignty over the Kalayaan Islands and its sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea]," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says in response to the Chinese Embassy labelling his call for Chinese ships to leave the Julian Felipe Reef "perplexing."

The embassy also urged him to "avoid any unprofessional remarks which may further fan irrational emotions" over the South China Sea dispute.

"The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupty features in the West Philippine Sea," Lorenzana says, citing previous activity at Panatag Shoal.

March 31, 2021 - 2:52pm

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirms that 44 Chinese maritime militia vessels remain moored, anchored and stationary at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea as of March 29.

The task force also reports 115 Chinese ships have been monitored in Chigua (Kennan) Reef, 45 vessels in Pag-asa (Thitu) Island & other 50 vessels dispersed in Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora (Subi) Reefs, all within the Kalayaan Island Group.

Four Chinese navy vessels are also at Panganiban Reef, which is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

March 25, 2021 - 10:15am

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives urge the chamber to condemn and conduct an inquiry into the presence of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef.

The Makabayan bloc expresses concern that the deployment of Chinese maritime militia ships in the area may lead to "another level of disrespect" to Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.

"It is feared that China will intensify the harassment and human rights violations against the Filipino people and further deprive them of their rights over the natural resources in the Philippine territory," the lawmakers write.

March 24, 2021 - 10:38am

Chinese maritime ships swarming Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea might be a prelude to occupying the whole area, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio says.

The retired magistrate recalls that the same incident happened to Mischief Reef, which is now a Chinese air and naval base.

"They started saying they just built fisherman shelter on Mischief Reef. Now Mischief Reef is an air and naval base. They call it their Pearl Harbor in the South China Sea," Carpio says in an interview with ANC's "Headstart" with Karen Davila.

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