Philippines starts filing daily diplomatic protests over Chinese ships in West PH Sea

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has started lodging daily diplomatic protests against China over the lingering presence of its ships in the West Philippine Sea. 

On Twitter, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr announced that the Philippines filed another protest on Wednesday, April 7, adding that one would be filed “every day” so long as China’s vessels remained in Philippine waters. 

“Firing another diplomatic protest,” Locsin said. “Every day 'til the last one’s gone like it should be by now if it is really fishing,” he added. 

The Philippines had earlier threatened to protest the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea daily after the vessels continued to remain near Julian Felipe Reef and other maritime features despite its repeated demands to “immediately withdraw.” (READ: Over 200 Chinese ships spread out in West Philippine Sea reefs)

Since late March, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea has asserted that the Chinese vessels in the area were manned by Beijing’s maritime militia due to its continued  presence in the area, despite showing no signs of "actual fishing activities.”

China had denied this and earlier dismissed the allegations as an “unnecessary irritation.” Its embassy in Manila has likewise stuck to the claim that the vessels spotted in the reef were taking shelter from “rough sea conditions,” though the Philippine military and coast guard had observed the ships remained there even in fair weather. 

The DFA earlier hit China’s tolerance of the ships’ presence in the West Philippine Sea, saying it showed a “lack of good faith” on Beijing’s part in ongoing negations on a code of conduct with Southeast Asian countries which seeks to provide stability in the South China Sea. 

It also called out China for stating  “blatant falsehoods” in its statement where it claimed Julian Felipe Reef, which it calls Niu'e Jiao,  to be “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 DFA rejected this and raised several points in the landmark 2016 Hague ruling the Philippines won against China, which struck down the regional giant's 9-dash line and historic claims to the West Philippine Sea. (READ: PH protests China districts, features in West PH Sea, asserts Hague ruling)

Tensions in the South China have flared in recent weeks amid Philippine officials' renewed push to publicly challenge Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s recent actions in the West Philippine Sea have likewise prompted blowback from the international community with Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the US expressing concerns over rising tensions in the South China Sea. – 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.

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