Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. ordered on Wednesday a fresh diplomatic protest against China amid its continued presence within areas under Philippine jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea, a day after the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded that Manila halt its maritime drills in the area.
“They can say what they want from the Chinese mainland; we continue to assert from our waters by right of international law what we won in The Hague. But we must not fail to protest,” Locsin said over Twitter.
In a separate tweet, Locsin added that enhanced maritime drills could also provide some kind of “clarity” in the area.
“[S]ee what enhanced maritime drills on our part is achieving: clarity. Now they realize what I said is a likelihood: mutual swarming increases likelihood of mis-encounter that may trigger the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty). Brinkmanship brings clarity. And fortitude,” he said.
Over the weekend, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) deployed eight capital ships to conduct maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea as part of efforts to secure its maritime jurisdiction in the area.
Following this, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday recited its claims that it “enjoys sovereignty over Nansha Islands (Spratlys) including Zhongye (Thitu) Island and Zhongsha Islands including Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters.”
It said the relevant side, apparently referring to Manila, must “respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.”
Under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the sovereignty of a state only extends over its so-called territorial sea, which is 12 nautical miles from its baseline.
In 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) formally ruled that China’s nine-dash line, which overlaps with Philippine exclusive economic zones and covers nearly 80 percent of the South China Sea, is illegal.
Since April 5, the Philippine government has been actively protesting China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in Julian Felipe Reef where a swarm of Chinese vessels was spotted in March 2021.
Under the Duterte administration, the Department of Foreign Affairs has so far lodged 78 diplomatic protests against China. PNA.GOV.PH