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MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Wednesday, October 2, ordered the filing of a diplomatic protest against China over the presence of its vessels near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.
“DFA Philippines fire off another diplomatic protest. Now,” Locsin tweeted past midnight on Wednesday.
Locsin made the statement in relation to a BusinessWorld report that newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippine Chief of Staff Noel Clement told senators of the Chinese ships’ presence near Ayungin Shoal.
“The mere presence there, if there is no request for passage prior to that, will have to be reported. Whether it is a violation or not will be up to our Department of Foreign Affairs,” Clement told senators.
Prior to this, Locsin fired off a series of diplomatic protests against China over the presence of its warships and survey ships in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Diplomatic protests against Beijing had also been filed over the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Philipppine defense department believes that Chinese fishing vessels do more than just fish in the West Philippine Sea, but are part of China’s strategy to control the resource-rich waters and deny Filipinos access to their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). (READ: China using fishing vessels for surveillance)
In September 2019, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said data from Chinese ships’ automatic identification system (AIS) showed Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels were patrolling Luconia Shoals, Ayungin Shoal, and Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) more frequently as part of its efforts to project power in the maritime area.
While other CCG vessels elsewhere in the South China Sea do not broadcast AIS, the think tank said data showed at least one sip was broadcasting at Second Thomas on 215 days, and from Scarborough for 162 days.
The latest filing is at least the 5th diplomatic protest filed by the Philippines against China this year.
Philippines-China relations have seen a turnaround under the Duterte administration, which has fostered friendlier ties with China by downplaying a decades-long sea dispute in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing. – Rappler.com