West Philippine Sea

Illegal entry? China ‘overhyping’ incident in Bajo de Masinloc, says Año

Bea Cupin

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Illegal entry? China ‘overhyping’ incident in Bajo de Masinloc, says Año

EDUARDO ANO. File photo shows National Security Adviser Eduardo Año.

Rappler

China's Southern Theater Command earlier claimed that a Philippine ship 'trespassed' into its waters during a routine patrol off Bajo de Masinloc. The shoal is well within the Philippines' EEZ, says National Security Adviser Eduardo Año.

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said on Tuesday, October 31, that Beijing was “overhyping” an incident between a Chinese and Filipino ship, after China claimed that a Philippine frigate “trespassed into the waters” off Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, a disputed atoll in the South China Sea.

“Under international law, the Philippines has every right to patrol the length and breadth of the West Philippine Sea which necessarily includes Bajo de Masinloc which is well within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” said Año in a statement.

Año confirmed that PS39 or the BRP Conrado Yap was conducting routine patrols in the area of Bajo de Masinloc “without any untoward incident.”

“It did not illegally enter any space under Chinese sovereignty because Bajo de Masinloc is part of the Philippine archipelago and EEZ. Chinese vessels, as usual, conducted shadowing on the movement of PS39,” said the country’s national security adviser.

The Philippines, China, and Taiwan claim Scarborough Shoal, known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal.

Illegal entry? China ‘overhyping’ incident in Bajo de Masinloc, says Año

In a statement late October 30, Air Force Senior Colonel Tian Junli, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command spokesperson, claimed that the Conrado Yap entered “China’s Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island) without the approval of the Chinese government.”

Tian insisted that the “Philippines’ action has seriously violated China’s sovereignty and international law and basic norms governing international relations, and is highly likely to cause misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

Año downplayed Beijing’s statement. “China is again overhyping this incident and creating unnecessary tensions between our two nations. Nonetheless, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) will not be deterred by the aggressive and illegal activities of PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) Navy/China Coast Guard/Militia in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Año, citing the “strong guidance” of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said the Philippines’ defense sector will “protect our territory and sovereign rights at all cost.”

“We urge China to act responsibly, respect UNCLOS, adhere to the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, promote the rules-based international order, and stop its aggressive and illegal actions in [Philippine]sha waters,” he added.

Tensions between China and the Philippines have risen anew in the past months, particularly over incidents involving ships from both countries. Scarborough Shoal is among the flashpoints of those tensions.

In late September, the PCG cut down a barrier that China had placed around the entrance to the shoal’s lagoon, after Philippine fishing ships had gathered in the area. In early October, the AFP dismissed as “propaganda” China’s claims that it had driven away a Philippine Navy ship in Scarborough Shoal. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.