Philippines-China relations

Philippines files 3 more protests vs China infractions in West Philippine Sea

Sofia Tomacruz
Philippines files 3 more protests vs China infractions in West Philippine Sea

TOP DIPLOMAT. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. sits in a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on May 10, 2021.

Malacañang photo

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr orders the filing of protests over radio challenges issued by China, the unlawful restriction of Filipino fishermen from Scarborough Shoal, and the continued presence of Chinese ships near Iroquois Reef

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday, September 30, ordered the filing of three new diplomatic protests against China over a series of unlawful actions taken by Beijing in the West Philippine Sea. 

In a string of tweets on Thursday, Locsin said he wanted separate protests filed on China’s radio challenges issued against Philippine maritime patrols, the unlawful restriction of Filipino fishermen from fishing in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), and the continued presence of Chinese ships in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef, some 125 nautical miles off the coast of Palawan. 

Locsin did not disclose details on when these infractions took place.

It was not the first time for China to carry out such activities to assert its claims in Philippine waters.  For years, Filipino fishermen have reported Chinese ships blocking access to resource rich areas like Bajo de Masinloc, which had been declared a common fishing ground in the landmark 2016 Hague ruling the Philippines won against China. 

Chinese vessels have also issued radio challenges to maritime and air patrols carried out by the Philippines in the past. Meanwhile, Chinese vessels have been repeatedly spotted in the West Philippine Sea, swarming areas like Pag-asa Island, the Philippines’ seat of power in the West Philippine Sea. 

The three protests were filed on top of 158 other diplomatic notes that Locsin said were filed against China under the Duterte administration, 143 of which were lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs under his leadership. 

The series of Chinese violations aired on Thursday are the latest to be publicly called out by the Philippines after tensions in the West Philippine Sea flared earlier this year, following the “incessant, illegal, prolonged, and increasing” presence of Chinese vessels  of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in several features in the West Philippine Sea. 

For over a month since early April, the Philippines had filed daily diplomatic protests against China over the illegal presence of its ships in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, despite repeated and regular demands from defense officials and diplomats to withdraw. The incident prompted world powers to express concern over China’s “destabilizing actions,” and the Philippines to summon Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over the issue. 

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Despite this, President Rodrigo Duterte has largely chosen to downplay China’s aggressive behavior in Philippine waters in favor or fostering warmer ties with Beijing.

The Chief Executive has often fallen back on what critics described as a “defeatist” stand in the West Philippine Sea and what experts called a misplaced argument that asserting the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea would court “war” with China. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.