DFA lodges new diplomatic protests as 160 Chinese ships remain in Philippine waters

DFA lodges new diplomatic protests as 160 Chinese ships remain in Philippine waters
In this Apr. 13, 2021 photo, Philippine coast guard personnel aboard rubber boats patrol past Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
PCG / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday confirmed that it has filed two new diplomatic protests against the continued illegal presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA filed the new diplomatic notes on April 21, a day after Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies confirmed the continued presence of at least 160 Chinese fishing and maritime militia vessels in the area.

"The presence of these vessels blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction," the DFA said in a statement released Friday.

The new diplomatic protests are in addition to the daily protests being filed by the DFA for "every day of delay" that Beijing refuses to withdraw its ships in Julian Felipe Reef.

The Chinese Embassy, however, insisted that the ships are just fishing vessels.

As of April 20, 16 Chinese ships were observed within the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the Kalayaan Island Group and around territorial waters of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

At least five China Coast Guard vessels were also seen deployed in the near Pag-asa Island, Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal.

"Through these protests, the DFA reminded China that Bajo de Masinloc, Pag-asa Islands, Panata, Parola, Kota Islands, Chigua and Burgos Reeffs are integral parts of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction," the DFA said.

The DFA also called on Beijing to adhere to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Beijing, however, has been rejecting the July 2016 arbitral ruling of the UNCLOS-backed tribunal that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

"The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region," the DFA said.

Earlier this week, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said the government has deployed more assets to the area following reports of lingering presence of Chinese vessels.

The government has so far deployed four Philippine Coast Guard vessels and an aircraft, five Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels, as well as high-speed tactical watercraft and rubber boats of the Philippine National Police's Maritime Group.

"The foregoing whole-of-nation approach to protect our national interest in the WPS manifests the firm rejection of the Philippine Government of any attempt to undermine the 2016 Arbitral Award. We are exhausting all means possible to protect our territory and EEZ," the task force said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray 







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