China to Lorenzana: Avoid unprofessional comments over Julian Felipe Reef

The Chinese embassy in Manila called as "unprofessional" Philippine defense chief Delfin Lorenzana's earlier statement saying Chinese ships must leave the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea because the weather has cleared.

"China is committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the waters and we hope that authorities concerned would make constructive efforts and avoid any unprofessional remarks which may further fan irrational emotions," said the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in a statement Saturday night, April 3.

The Chinese embassy said it has "taken note of the perplexing statement by Philippine Defense Secretary on Chinese fishing vessels around Niu’e Jiao in the South China Sea," referring to the Julian Felipe reef, which Chinese militia ships had been crowding supposedly to take shelter from rough weather.

Earlier on Saturday, Lorenzana said "I am no fool" because "the weather has been good so far."

Saying that "the Chinese ambassador has a lot of explaining to do," Lorenzana told Chinese ships: "They have no other reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (Leave now),”

Lorenzana said there were still 44 Chinese vessels that were in Julian Felipe Reef.

“I am no fool. The weather has been good so far, so they have no other reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out. Umalis na kayo diyan (Leave now),” he added.

But China, through its Philippine embassy, did not stand down.

"It is completely normal for Chinese fishing vessels to fish in the waters and take shelter near the reef during rough sea conditions. Nobody has the right to make wanton remarks on such activities," said the embassy spokesperson.

China insisted that the Julian Felipe reef, which it calls Niu'e Jiao, "is part of China's Nansha Islands" and that the waters around it "has been a traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen for many years."

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has launched a strong protest over China's naming of districts and maritime features in the West Philippine Sea.

In this protest, the Philippine government asserted the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated China's so-called nine-dash line claim over the disputed territory. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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