Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Wednesday, April 28, ordered another diplomatic protest filed against China after one of its officials urged the Philippines to stop its drills in the West Philippine Sea.
Locsin said that while Chinese officials – in this case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin – are free to make statements on the issue, the Philippines “must not fail to protest” such claims and assert Filipinos’ rights in their own waters.
Locsin made the statement in relation to a news report quoting House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez as calling Beijing’s remarks against the Philippine Coast Guard drills in the West Philippine Sea “ridiculous.”
In a news briefing on Monday, April 26, Wang, when asked to comment on the PCG drills in the West Philippine Sea, continued to assert China’s claim over the Spratlys, including Pag-asa Island, as well as Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) and its adjacent waters.
Referring to these features by its Chinese names, Wang also reiterated Beijing’s claim that it enjoyed sovereignty over the South China Sea – a claim already debunked by the 2016 Hague ruling that favored the Philippines over the regional giant.
“We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes,” Wang had said in a press conference.
On Wednesday, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea reported on the “continued illegal presence” of three Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Bajo de Masinloc, one CCG vessel in waters in the munipality of Kalayaan, and one CCG vessel in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal).
“These incursions are under review for possible filing appropriate diplomatic actions,” the task force said. “Our government shall not waver in pursuing peaceful, rules-based and proactive initiatives on environmental protection, safety of navigation, maritime and food security within our maritime domains.”
The diplomatic protest ordered by Locsin is the Philippines' latest action against China over the West Philippine Sea, where tensions have flared in recent weeks due to the continued presence of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef and other maritime features in the seascape. Since early March, hundreds of vessels believed to be manned by Beijing’s maritime militia were spotted in Julian Felipe Reef and later dispersed to different reefs.
The Philippines has filed several protest against Beijing throughout March and April. Since April 5, it has also lodged daily diplomatic protests against China over the lingering presence of its ships in the West Philippine Sea. It vowed one would be filed “every day” so long as China’s vessels remained in Philippine waters. – Rappler.com