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MANILA, Philippines – Manila again filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing on Monday, April 16, over allegations the latter deployed its ships and aircraft to harass a Philippine boat in Scarborough Shoal.
This adds further tension to the week-long standoff between the Philippines and China.
Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing received the protest from Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, the assigned Philippine negotiator while Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is on a week-long US trip.
“Such actions are in violation of the sovereign right and jurisdiction of the Philippines to conduct marine research in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez, referring to an international law stipulating that countries have the right to exercise jurisdiction over waters within its 200-nautical mile zone.
Tensions appeared to have eased on Friday, April 13, after 8 Chinese fishing boats fled the disputed area, leaving only one ship each from China and the Philippines there.
But Beijing apparently reneged on a commitment to maintain the status quo when it deployed a second craft Saturday, April 14, increasing once again its naval presence in the Scarborough to two.
It was on the same day that Manila accused a Chinese ship to have harassed Philippine civilian vessel, M/Y Saranggani, carrying 9 French nationals conducting archaeological research in the Scarborough while a Chinese aircraft arrived and made fly-bys over the area.
Hernandez said the Chinese vessels, through a radio communication, demanded the Saranggani to leave the area at once while a Chinese aircraft flew over it.
“The M/Y Saranggani is in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), which is 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and is within the 200 nautical miles EEZ and Continental Shelf of the Philippines,” Hernandez maintained.
Manila demanded that the Chinese ships and aircraft “cease the harassments of and fly-bys over M/Y Saranggani so that the boat can complete its work.”
“Any attempted action by Chinese ships or aircraft against the M/Y Saranggani will be considered by the Philippines as gross violation of its national laws and of international law,” Hernandez said. – Rappler.com