DFA summons Chinese envoy over lingering ships in West Philippine Sea
This March 20, 2021 photo shows Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian
Facebook/Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian

DFA summons Chinese envoy over lingering ships in West Philippine Sea

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - April 13, 2021 - 1:35pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:44 p.m.) — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday summoned China's top envoy in the Philippines amid the continuing presence of Chinese ships in Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

This is the first time that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian has been summoned by the DFA since taking over as China's envoy in the Philippines.

In a statement released Tuesday, the DFA said it expressed "displeasure over the illegal presence of Chinese vessels in the coral reef off the coast of Bataraza, Palawan.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso informed Huang that the Julian Felipe Reef lies within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

"The continuing presence of Chinese vessels around the Reef is a source of regional tension," the DFA said.

Buensuceso reiterated that the July 2016 arbitral award invalidated Beijing's historic rights or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA said both the Philippine and Chinese sides agreed to lower the tensions and handle the issue diplomatically."

Proper decorum

The Chinese were also reminded to maintain proper decorum and manners following a word war with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila earlier called Lorenzana's statement as "unprofessional" after the Cabinet member called on China to pull out its ships in the area.

On March 7, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirmed that 220 Chinese maritime militia vessels were seen moored in the vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef.

The DFA has since filed a diplomatic protest but 32 ships still remain in the area as of March 27.

"We will continue to ask them to remove the vessels, but they may keep one or two or three, but more than that will create alarm," Lorenzana was quoted in a GMA News report on April 10.

Last week, the Philippines started filing daily diplomatic protests for "every day of delay" that China doesn't pull out its ships in the area.

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted that only nine ships remain based on information from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

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