The Philippines' Department of Defense (DND) fired another shot at China following the latter's statement that called for a stop to actions "complicating the situation," in reference to Manila's maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement on Wednesday, April 28, the DND said: “China has no business telling the Philippines what we can and cannot do within our own waters."
The department was referring to a statement issued recently by China's foreign ministry. “We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a press conference on Monday, April 26.
Tension flared up anew early this month when Philippine authorities counted at least 165 Chinese vessels roaming the West Philippine Sea. Chinese ships armed with missiles also chased a Filipino news crew on April 8.
As of Wednesday, around 5 Chinese ships were still in Philippine waters, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.
China's incursions prompted 4 agencies – Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Agriculture (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), Philippine National Police (Maritime Group), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines – to join forces in conducting regular maritime patrols in the area.
Under the 1982 United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights over features located within its exclusive economic zone or 12 to 200 nautical miles from the baseline of its territorial waters.
The international law was reaffirmed by the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, which favored all the claims of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
“The arbitral award has categorically stated that the Chinese claim bounded by their so-called nine dash line according [to] their 'historical right' has no basis in fact," the DND said. "Therefore, it is they who are encroaching and should desist and leave."