Philippines demands China's withdrawal from Pag-asa Island

The Philippines has fired a new diplomatic protest demanding China's withdrawal from the vicinity of Pag-asa Island.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday, May 29, that it filed the protest on Friday, May 28.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs lodged a diplomatic protest yesterday against the incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels in the vicinity of the Pag-asa islands, demanding that China withdraw these vessels," the DFA said.

"The Pag-asa Islands is an integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction," it added.

Pag-asa, internationally known as Thitu Island, lies 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. It is the largest of what the Philippines calls the Kalayaan Island Group, a chain of nine islets it claims as territory among the broader group internationally known as the Spratlys.

This is the latest in the Philippines' series of diplomatic protests against China over the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr had earlier said that the Philippines would file protests against China every day  "until the last" Chinese vessel leaves Philippine waters.

Locsin warned of new diplomatic protests a week ago following reports of an increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in Pag-asa Island, Ayungin Shoal, and Bajo de Masinloc.

The swarming of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea has been adding pressure to President Rodrigo Duterte to be more assertive against the regional giant, including invoking the Hague 2016 ruling that invalidates China's historical claim to Philippine waters.

Duterte had previously said that he would visit Pag-asa – a highly symbolic move that would send a strong message to China and other claimants that the Philippines is serious about defending its sovereignty – but had yet to do so. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana explained in an interview in 2020 that Duterte didn't want to "hurt the feelings" of a "friend" like China.