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Marcos admin urged to file diplomatic protest over rocket debris incident

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Marcos admin urged to file diplomatic protest over rocket debris incident
This handout photo taken on April 27, 2021 and received from the Philippine Coastguard on May 5, 2021 shows Philippine coastguard personnel aboard their ship BRP Cabra monitoring Chinese vessels (R) at Sabina Shoal, a South China Sea outcrop claimed by Manila located about 135 kilometres (73 nautical miles) west of the Philippine island of Palawan.
Handout / Philippine Coastguard / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — A senator and a fishers group are asking the administration of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to lodge a diplomatic protest with China over its coast guard’s reported seizure of rocket debris from the Philippine Navy near Pag-asa Island.

The Philippines has sent a note verbale to China over the incident, but Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo made it clear that this was not a diplomatic protest, which Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said is the “best” that the country can do.

“It’s an objection or protest. They should not be doing that … That should not happen in the future as it might escalate to a more serious or violent situation which we do not want,” Pimentel told reporters partly in Filipino.

Fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas demanded that the Marcos administration “strongly castigate” China by summoning its ambassador and filing a diplomatic protest.

Pamalakaya spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said the incident is a “clear indication” that Chinese militarization has reached the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters intended for small fisherfolk.

“If Chinese militia could easily subdue our naval forces, one can only imagine the threat and fear they bring to our small municipal fisherfolk,” Arambulo said.

Navy Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos accused early this week China’s coast guard of blocking a Filipino rubber boat towing an “unidentified floating object” in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Marcos earlier told reporters that the Philippines will send China a diplomatic note asking "why is it that their account is so different and it's much more benign."

While the Philippines is still seeking China’s side on the reported incident, Manalo said they are standing and “taking to heart” Carlos’ statement. 

“That’s why we have referred it in effect in the note verbale to China and we’d like to see how they reply,” he told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

China refuted Carlos and said that Filipino troops turned over the object to the Chinese Coast Guard “after friendly consultation.”

“There was no so-called blocking of the course of a Philippine Navy boat and forcefully retrieving the object at the scene,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Monday.

The South China Sea, specifically a portion of it claimed and called by Manila as the West Philippine Sea, has been a source of friction between the two countries.

China maintains its sweeping claims over virtually the entire South China Sea and continues to ignore a Hague-based tribunal’s ruling in 2016 invalidating this.

CHINESE COAST GUARD

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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